Title

What's Troubling about the "Wilderness"?: Children's Literature and its Portrayals of Nature

Lead Author Major

English

Lead Author Status

Senior

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Xiaojing Zhou

Faculty Mentor Department

English

Abstract/Artist Statement

It is axiomatic that children’s literature functions as a window for children to understand and develop their understanding of the world around them. However, when it comes to fostering ecological citizenship, the understanding of the interconnection and interdependency of all lives and materials, there exists a glaring problem. Children’s books written from an anthropocentric point of view often portray nature, as the “other”, separate from or subordinate to humans, as mere resources or playground. For example, in Finding Wild, Megan Wagner Lloyd depicts nature as a pristine wilderness untouched by civilization, through the story of how two children leave the bustling streets—the environment of their everyday life—and enter an otherworldly land to find “Wild.” Whereas in children’s books by Native American authors, nature intertwines with humans and their everyday life. Embedded in this intertwining relation are more than mutual dependence and kinship between nature and humans. There is a sense of mystery and sacredness in nature, which is irreducible to resources for humans, who have reverence and responsibilities for the nonhuman.

In this paper, I examine the implications and effects of representations of nature through the lens of ecocritical theories with a focus on Native American children’s books and tales by Wabanaki and Cree-Métis authors. My analysis seeks to emphasize the importance of introducing ecological views in children’s literature for cultivating ecological awareness and citizenship. I contend that the inclusion of children’s books by Native American authors in the K-12 curriculum is imperative for this purpose in facing challenges of urgent ecological crises.

Location

Virtual

Start Date

25-4-2020 10:00 AM

End Date

25-4-2020 12:00 PM

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Apr 25th, 10:00 AM Apr 25th, 12:00 PM

What's Troubling about the "Wilderness"?: Children's Literature and its Portrayals of Nature

Virtual

It is axiomatic that children’s literature functions as a window for children to understand and develop their understanding of the world around them. However, when it comes to fostering ecological citizenship, the understanding of the interconnection and interdependency of all lives and materials, there exists a glaring problem. Children’s books written from an anthropocentric point of view often portray nature, as the “other”, separate from or subordinate to humans, as mere resources or playground. For example, in Finding Wild, Megan Wagner Lloyd depicts nature as a pristine wilderness untouched by civilization, through the story of how two children leave the bustling streets—the environment of their everyday life—and enter an otherworldly land to find “Wild.” Whereas in children’s books by Native American authors, nature intertwines with humans and their everyday life. Embedded in this intertwining relation are more than mutual dependence and kinship between nature and humans. There is a sense of mystery and sacredness in nature, which is irreducible to resources for humans, who have reverence and responsibilities for the nonhuman.

In this paper, I examine the implications and effects of representations of nature through the lens of ecocritical theories with a focus on Native American children’s books and tales by Wabanaki and Cree-Métis authors. My analysis seeks to emphasize the importance of introducing ecological views in children’s literature for cultivating ecological awareness and citizenship. I contend that the inclusion of children’s books by Native American authors in the K-12 curriculum is imperative for this purpose in facing challenges of urgent ecological crises.