The jewelled net: Towards a Southern African theory/ practice of environmental literacy
This thesis suggests that there is an urgent need for academic work in literary and cultural studies to become more responsive to the contemporary eco-social crisis of environment and development. Questioning the sustainability of current practices, I introduce an approach which has emerged in the attempt to reorient my own work in English Studies towards what I call environmental literacy. My discussion consists of a prologue, six chapters, and an epilogue. The prologue is a story essay which presents through metaphor and narrative some of the questions which later chapters explore in more familiarly academic register. Chapters One and Two assemble the theoretical tools which have shaped my priorities. The first situates the project in terms of issues in South African eco-politics, and goes on to introduce potentially useful models in eco-criticism , environmental history, ecological philosophy and feminist theory. The second chapter argues that elements in Mahayana Buddhism (specifically teachings on emptiness and dependent arising and their relation to compassion) offer suggestive models for further radicalizing our theory I practice. The following degree chapters experiment with writing environmentally literate responses to several texts (one historical and the rest contemporary). Chapter Three is an appreciative reading of the representation of the Garden in William Blake's poem The Book of Thel (1789), Chapter Four brings personal narrative into an analysis of Gary Snyder's epic poem Mountains and Rivers Without End (1996), and Chapter Five is a critical survey of eco-cultural texts produced in South Africa during the period 1986- 1996. In Chapter Si.." I report on some of the pedagogical implications of thee orientation 1 have described , drawing on thee experience of teaching at the University of the Western Cape. The epilogue is brief and imagistic. The written text of the thesis is accompanied by pictures of people, plants and places.