September 22, 2012

Locke And the Weakness of Language

Having studied Locke's epistemological writing (as well as his political and ethical philosophies which for the sake of this discussion should be considered separate) in Philosophy of Language, I feel that Locke exposes a very important consideration for students of rhetoric, that language is the factor which introduces the highest degree of ambiguity to discourse and not competing theories of knowledge. Though I do think Locke utilizes strange lines of reasoning at times, I feel that he is entirely correct to assert that knowledge is non-relativistic, unambiguous, and clear whereas language, our tool of communication is steeped in arbitrariness and convention to the point where it obscures our own impressions of awareness, preventing them from being understood by others. Though the broadness of common language may make it sufficient  for civil use (Locke says it doesn't, I'm really not certain whether or not that is the case yet), its lack of precision becomes particularly apparent in philosophical discourse. Simply think about how hard it is to establish non-problematic definitions of the most foundational concepts for this class such as "agency," "audience," or "work." Is it the case that we only have a redundant or tautological understanding of these concepts? Or is it instead the case that language fails us because every word has different connotations to every individual and their lived experience?

September 18, 2012

Ecopornography - Commodity Fetishism

Bart Welling’s ”Ecoporn” exposes the commoditization of nature in the media. The following passage is representative of the main idea of the piece.

“Ecopornography is a type of contemporary visual discourse made up of highly idealized, anthropomorphized views of landscapes and nonhuman animals. While these images often are composed or manipulated to stress their subject’s innate similarities to the human body and to human social and power structures (such as the nuclear family, patriarchy, and the nation state), the images work to conceal both the material circumstances of their creation by humans and whatever impact humans may have had on the landforms and animals they depict

September 17, 2012


  I found Welling’s definition of the term “Ecoporn” to be quite effective and convincing.  I had no experience with the term before this reading, and when he began stating his argument I had no idea how he was going to create connections / draw parallels with aspects of feminism. However, Welling makes an excellent argument.  He creates an image for us of the typical viewer/consumer of visual images of nature (whether they be an awareness ad, documentary, or just a shot of nature in all of it’s splendor) as an all-powerful voyeuristic male.  He believes that this viewer equates his seemingly omnipotent vision with an equal knowledge of the subject (nature) which he can exploit as he chooses.  Nature, whether it is landscape or nonhuman animals, is representative of the victim, the exploitable, female.  From the ecopornograhy lens, parallels between this objectification of nature and that of women in pornography are clearly evident.  As an example Welling points out the similarities of women at a peep show and animals at a zoo, both are seen as spectacles, they are being objectified. 

Confusion with Profusion Meanings in Agency

         I think the problem I have with most classes dealing with rhetoric is that they never receive one definite answer and that is exactly what Campbell is addressing in Agency: Promiscuous and Protean. In class we discussed that agency was “the condition or state of being that includes power, or the ability to do something.” When I translate that I take it as the ability to do something with power. Campbell suggests this power is done by a group that shares the same ideas, it is “invented”, it emerges and is done only through one’s own free will. This idea that agency is modern is troubling me because I feel that agency has been around as long as mankind. It may seem modern because it is just recently being addressed, but even in the time during Christ there were groups that orchestrated things only because they had the power too. The Jews had enough power to crucify him and that agency is not modern.


When I first started reading Welling's piece on Ecoporn, it took me a while until I could full grasp what he was talking about (and I'm still not sure if I do). From what I could gather, Welling defines ecoporn as a type of visual discourse that transforms nature and nonhuman animals into highly idealized and sexual representations. While I can see where he is coming from, I think his examples of The Discovery Channel and The Crocodile Hunter as exploiting animals in a sexual way is sort of far fetched. I do however agree with the notion that "women are naturalized and animalized." Especially in today's society, women are used all over advertising to sell products and gain attention from the intended audience. I'm also not sure if I agree with his statement, "along with standard pornography, [ecoporn] has the capacity to empower as well as to degrade." The way I see it, pornography only degrades, the person being exploited and the viewer him/herself.

Exposing Nature: XXX

Although Bart H. Welling did not coin the term 'ecoporn' his text, Ecoporn, was my first encounter with such a topic. In fact the first man to employ the term was Jerry Mander in his 1972 work, Ecopornography. To Mander, the word can be defined similarly to the OED definition of 'green wash'- disinformation disseminated by an organization, etc., so as to present an environmentally responsible public image (Welling 54). Some great examples of this have happened recently since the BP oil spill across the Gulf. BP has generated commercials showing flourishing lands unaffected by the colossal oil spill; the company is attempting to trick the public into thinking that thanks to BP the Gulf area is back to its clean environmentally thriving self, pre-spill. Of course these images are deceiving and have been furthered labeled as 'ecoporn' since they are  counterproductive and instead of educating the public about ecostemic abuses, they anesthetize viewers by constructing an illusion of pure, safe, nature (55).

Sojourner Truth's Fictionalized Voice

As a white abolitionist, Gage represented Truth in the voice that she felt was appropriate for the message despite Truth being from the Netherlands she gives Truth the dialect of a black southern slave. By giving Truth a heavy black southern accent she gives her a fictionalized voice.

This is Gage’s attempt to construct audience, by making Truth more of a “figure” for the southern black women her was to appease to that specific audience and to empathizers of that group. “That written text represents Truth’s speech in the white abolitionist’s imagined idiolect of The Slave, the supposedly archetypical black plantation slave of the South” (Logan 20) I personally battle with how to take in Gage’s efforts. Although I understand that making Truth this figure of the strong black southern woman could help to further women’s rights and abolition, the stereotypical framing of Truth is borderline offensive no matter the intentions. It suggests that without that dialect her argument would not be relatable to black southern women and that the empathizers of this group would not be able to receive the message without this false figure.

Establishing "Normalcy" and the United Way in the 1950's

I thought the article Textual Practices of Erasure was interesting in the sense that the general argument of the essay was that it "contextualizes front-stage textual practices in terms of the central contradictions of the American 1950s: Underlying the celebration of American goodness expressed in charity was profound uneasiness about the presence of disabled others who were different from the American mainstream, unease that is allayed by erasure." The United Way used sympathy of people who were disabled to get funding in a world that was seen upbeat and almost perfect. People with disabilities were typically seen as less human, and although these ads did bring that division to mind, I do think it did the job in raising awareness and not ignoring the elephant in the room of someone with disabilities, so to speak. I can see where it can cause issues with exploiting people and using children to generate sympathy from an audience, but at the same time, I think it is the only way to get the job done.

Ecoporn's Purpose

The general purpose of the term "Ecoporn", is to evade the possibility of  turning our worlds natural attributes into commodities. By definition a commodity is any economic fixture that can be produced to satisfy a need or want. What I have come to realize though is that our worlds natural aspects have always been a commodity. Even the early protestant values from the first European settlers in America speak to this when they claimed to seek a "city upon a hill". The only difference, is that today we have millions of people with access to the worlds natural resources and with the ability of destruction and abuse. Back then we were cutting down trees one by one just to build log cabins (no real impact).

Ecoporn, A New Perspective

I found the "Ecoporn" article to be very interesting. Last semester I took "Rhetorical Criticism", and we analyzed slasher films and how they sexualized, and de-sexualized, the female heroines. I never would have thought to apply a similar analysis to pictures of nature.

While I'm not sure if Welling's argument is totally sound, I understand the main points. Untouched landscapes with "female" characteristics can be appealing to the unconscious concept of a "virgin female body". I'm not sure I understood what Welling's was claiming was so wrong about this similarity, other than women would probably be offended that they are being portrayed as animals. A problem I found, and I saw that someone discussed this below, is that Welling really only talked about how ecoporn depicted women sexually. When he brought up the image of the Florida Panther, which I can see vividly as it was my highschool mascot, big, buff and black, with its beating yellow eyes, if I had to guess what gender it was trying to sexualize, I would definitely say male. While landscapes may look more "female", it should also be considered that some of these rolling hills and venus fly traps really do look like female anatomy parts. I could also probably find many phallic symbols in ecoporn if I looked for them, which I feel like Welling didn't.

Erasure Eraser.

Ellen L. Barton's article "Textual Practices of Erasure: Representations of Disability and the Founding of the United Way" has a very noble cause: unmask and denounce rhetoric that negatively alters our perceptions of the disabled. Barton says this rhetoric uses pity and fear to "evoke readers' feelings of good fortune, their suppressed fears of vulnerability, and their pride in American values and institutions" (195). Although campaigns operating this way (for example the United Way's) are most often  successful, Barton cautions that it "regularly diminishes the experience of the people with disabilities and ultimately diminishes the understanding of disability by society at large" (195).
I absolutely agree with Barton in this respect; she provides a variety of campaign posters/articles that exaggerate the negative condition of the handicapped in order to amplify some effect on the reader.

Feminine rhetoric and the evolution of the epistime

The influence of  gender roles has been an influential componet of contemporary society virtually since the beginning of human civilization. The gender roles and rules which dictate their function have been a fundamental aspect in the determation of available opportunities for men and women, as they have been seen throughout history to be applied with the rigid inflexability of law. The role of gender is not inherent, however, and has no form of biological composition or any other form of absolute truth by which to justify it's structure. Therefore, the development and evolution of feminist rhetorical practices can be viewed as a revolutionary element which was fundamental to the evolution of the epistime to encourage a greater sense of equality between men and women.

Rhetorical relation and Campbell's Theory

The most interesting articles of the semester so far, at least to me, have been the Campbell and Heilbrun pieces. The idea that Campbell presents, the notion that a women's  siterature or a women's agency, can stem from an already established rhetorical genre or agency is much more plausible than an entire entire women's rhetorical movement that comes from nothing. I could not help but link this "constrained agency" to African-American literature. African-Americans ccreated a literature, an agency, from the confinement and constrain of an oppressive context and used that context to blossum. If a heirarchy is in place and a dominant ideolgy is in poace that is oppresive to the groups that are not in power, those groups that are not in power can create their own ways of gaining power frpm qithin their constraints. I believe this is why Campbell referenced "the Pheonix."

ECOPRON and the passion for perceiving

This isn't the first time I've compared particular art forms with something as primeval as sexual desires. Hell, last semester I had to give a presentation on The Passion of Perceiving by Christian Metz. It was essentially about how watching cinema is a primeval desire. Some examples listed were films like Psycho or Rear Window which is all about watching people, especially in a sexual way.

It appeals to the part of the brain that has been with us the longest: the reptilian system. It's always considered our deepest darkest desires because it's literally the deepest part of the brain. The arts, like photographs and film and everything in between seek to appeal to things that are human. Ecoporn is no different. Sexuality is a completely human thing to experience and when exposed with nature, it allows us to realize just how human the world, as a whole, is, not just the urban or rural areas of human habituation.

The Problem with Ecopornography

Though I can understand the rationale behind Welling's usage of the term "ecopornography," I feel that I am in the same boat as a few others in the sense that I find its somewhat questionable. Welling's primary reason for using the term "ecopornography" is because representations of nature have appropriated the visual language used in sexualized depictions of women. This has significant ethical implications because the rhetorical model of ecopornography has actual persuasive power and it shapes the way humans think of their relationship to nature. Also like pornography, representations of nature can be utilized in the name of empowering the subjects represented when in actuality it financially exploits the subjects in order to facilitate agendas contrary to their interests.


   When I first started reading Welling's "Ecoporn" it took me a while to grasp what the actual definition of the term was. It wasn't until page 57 that I was able to put different pieces of the definition together to form one whole, encompassing idea. What I gathered is that ecoporn is "a type of contemporary visual discourse made up of highly idealized... views of landscape and nonhuman animals" and that it "supplies viewers with a fantasy of... total visual power over these nonhuman creatures and habitats that are both comforting humanized and pleasingly untainted by humans." This goes back to the idea that we have covered in other readings, the idea of "power." Welling mentions how ecoporn creates this role for the viewer as the "male surveyor," or the overlooking male subject to nature's unseeing female object. This also touches on the concept of feminism that we have been noticing in the past couple weeks with Campbell and Heilbrun's readings. There are many different ways in which one could read into connecting ecoporn and feminism, but one of the ideas that Welling mentioned that stood out to me was this idea of a fantasy of "wild animal woman" or the "sexual beast." This concept branches into what Welling calls a "truly hardcore obsession with the explicit sexuality and violent death." I find this interesting because it seems so primal, when the idea of ecoporn is relatively modern to my understanding. But this might just be another example of how ecoporn is, in itself, contradicting.

Paradox of Agent/cy

The Barton article helped me to see an instance of the paradox of agent/cy, because it showed an example of an ad campaign that on the surface seems to give agency to a group, but in reality is taking agency away from them. By upholding those with disabilities as Others and lumping them all together, the campaign took agency away from the disabled. I noticed in the ads shown, among all the other things pointed out about them in the article, that it was never the disabled person/s that was given something to say. The slogan 'Give Once for All' was very telling concerning about how the charity was viewed largely as a practical business solution, and about attitudes towards disability and charity. The subtext of 'Give Once for All' means 'Give us a large sum of money once a year and you won't have to do anything about disability or the disabled until we come around next year.'

Girls just wanna have fun

It saddened me to read the feminism readings. I understand that this was a problem in these days, but I did not understand the severity. I was originally signed up for a women studies class this semester, and I am almost glad that I ended up replacing it with another class. I do not think I could handle a whole class of these readings. This is not my cup of tea, and I feel as though, if I were alive during this time, that men would not like me. I would be a rebel. I would never be the women whom's place was at home or in the kitchen. I love to cook, but i do it for fun. If it were expected of me, I probably would not find it as "fun".

Ecoporn: At Least the Motives are Good?

At first glance, I understood “ecopornography” to be when natural elements resemble human body parts, especially sexually suggestive parts and poses. I wondered why a person would write an article about this phenomenon, and even more so, why we would be reading it for this class. I then started to slowly understand what the article meant by the term. If I understood correctly, ecopornography is when nature is captured on photo or video in a way that is highly idealized and/or even fictionalized, the way pornography exaggerates human sex to something that it really isn’t. It is misleading and indulgent. I find the idea of this interesting. What I had a harder time understanding is why, in more cases than not, this would be a damaging thing. As the article pointed out, ecoporn has attempted to change the perception of certain elements of nature in the mind of the human.


At first when I was reading this article i couldn't conceptualize how Welling could connect pornography and the visual images we use to make a point when in comes to saving something animal or planet related, But near the end it clicked. He was comparing everything to pornography because everything visually (for the most part) is heading in that direction. Ads TV, movies, etc all have these sexual connotations and Economical topics are heading that way.

The only way I can rationalize how Welling came up with this idea is by referring back to the feminist pieces we read last week. Like how it was discussed in the articles we read last week there is a structure, a way that we as a society are conducting ourselves and allowing ourselves to be influence. Last week we saw the structure was  masculine and feminine roles and this piece takes that structure and digs deeper, pin points sex or visual pleasure.


I learned a lot from all of the articles that we used to study agency, so I'm not sure if I could pick one that really hit me. I really appreciated the ideas Aristotle presented. I thought what he said about Happiness and Political Science and the way we use, define and work within them was completely accurate. I also thought that Barthes in Death of the Author had an interesting perspective I'd never thought to take before. But truly, there is a death of oneself (or should be to an extent) when writing for an audience. The audience for a piece is of vast importance to the piece itself, in the sense that it directly correlates to the way it is written and read. I think in order for a piece to be fully written a death has to occur for it's full effect to come to light.

Barton's "Ecoporn"

I couldn’t read Barton “Ecoporn” without thinking of Campbell’s feminist writings because Barton opened up with a similar man vs. woman theme. Just as nature is portrayed in literature as feminine, Barton compared women to nature and the people who manipulate it (ecopornographers) to men. When I look at a postcard or an advertisement for a vacation spot, I am of course aware that they are trying to make the environment look as perfect as possible, but I never consider what animals or natural habitats were destroyed to make it look so perfect.


One point in this article that really hit me was in the second paragraph when Barton is listing some examples of the negative terminology that has worked its way into our cultural lexicon. This is a problem we have in our society, particularly the younger part of it. These words continue to be used to describe anything that “doesn’t work right”, despite the general knowledge that it is “politically incorrect”, and that term is usually said in an aside sneer, to do so. And when a person is called out on it or asked to stop, the usual defense is that they ‘didn’t mean it like that’ and that other person needs to lighten up.

September 16, 2012

Feminist Literary Criticisms

This week we were asked to read Campbell’s “Man Cannot Speak for Her” and Heilbrun “Writing a Woman’s Life.” Having had read this during the week I had to also turn in a Preparatory Exercise about both of these readings. After reading both pieces by Campbell and Heilbrun, I enjoyed reading Campbell’s piece a lot more. Campbell had valid points when she made arguments based on gender rules versus justice. Which then led to feminine style. It reflects the learning experiences of when and if it was a less confrontational violation. It also gives men constrained agency.


Before I begin to analyze Bart H. Welling's Ecoporn, I just want to say that I found this article to be very well written, enlightening, and intriguing. I will admit that when I first began reading, I thought the concept of ecoporn was completely ridiculous (I actually underlined the first sentence of the article and wrote "...what?"), but having read the piece in its entirety, I think Welling makes many valid and interesting points on the way that we view nature and what this realization means for the future of the animal kingdom. From my understanding of the reading, there are four overarching points (and multiple examples) that he touches on to connect the way that nature is portrayed by so called "environmentalists" and the characteristics of pornography...

Give the audience what they want or need??

When we left class Friday I was honestly pretty amazed at the class’s responses to the two different articles on Sojourner Truth. I did not understand why most of the student’s thought it was in Gage’s benefit to please his audience by writing an article that made Sojourner appear as this stereotypical black slave. Instead of agreeing with or appreciating Campbell’s efforts in making the article a more accurate account of Sojourner’s character and her tone and style during that period in time.

I believe that most people would agree with me when I say when dealing with a political historical event or symbol such as Sojourner and her speech I want as close as I can get to the truth. Actually when being told any piece of information no matter how meaningless I would rather the truth than a false statement or persona for that matter.

Why not Textual Practices of Exposure?

After reading Barton's article, I'm not sure I agree with Barton's idea that charitable organizations like United Way use a discourse of disability to "erase" the experience of disability in children and adults. I also don't agree that pity and fear motivated people to donate to the disabled. (What about that fact the some people are inherently good-willed and willing to help?) In fact, it seems the complete opposite. Organizations dedicated to helping the disabled are not erasing disabled people's independence or treating them as "Others", these organizations are just raising awareness and spreading information about the disabled. Yes, some of the ads might use a slight shock value, like the Pamela and Arthur ad or "what if this wheelchair was yours," but it's not meant to cause pity or fear or specifically isolate the disabled. Barton says that "the textual practices establishing these representations draw upon and maintain the powerful stereotypes of the able-bodies that disabled bodies and disabled bodies are separate, Others in body and therefore in life. The experience of living in a disabled body, the experience of living in an able-bodied society, the normalcy of a life, particularly an adult life, with a disability- all of these complexities are erased" (Barton 188). It's the opposite. These ads are drawing attention to a problem that could benefit from aid. These textual ads are exposing an issue, not trying to hide it. In some time periods, it was seen as embarrassing to have disabled family members and as a result those people were socially isolated. United Way and their ad campaigns did the opposite. They took the term "disabled" from out the shadows and brought it into a public forum. "Textual Practices of Erasure" seems a complete misnomer.

man cannot speak for her...but does anyway.

I have to admit: the articles that have actually stuck with me the most were the articles arguing the "feminist" rhetoric and their place in history. Like Natalie mentioned, it's interesting to see how these can still be applicable today with the upcoming election. Campbell argues the purpose of speech and rhetoric in Man Cannot Speak For Her, the one that I actually have been thinking about lately. She mentions that women cannot easily participate in public debate because arguing anything other than what seems to be "for the good of others" makes a woman seem selfish and unappreciative of anything she has.

If you think about the way that women have been treated in the upcoming election and the numerous conventions and debates recently, it's interesting to see the possible ways this could be taken. But it's more than just that - women have, until recently, been forced to take a second place seat, the be homemakers and housewives and mothers and nothing else.

Each Agent for Themselves.

     Campbell makes some heavy observations on Sojourner Truth’s speech at the Women’s Rights Convention; more specifically Gage’s version. Gage’s version of the speech sounds like a uneducated, stereotypical black women speaking. We know that isn’t true in some respect. Truth was a woman who grew up with a Dutch English background. So the imagined tone and dialect of Truth could be entirely made up.

     Yet, Campbell’s version of the speech is also different. Granted, I have never heard someone with a Dutch English accent speak, but Campbell’s version is not what I imagined. When we were shown Marius Robinson’s recounting of the speech, it seemed more authentic. Yet, it also didn’t portray the intensity and the “language” that Campbell and Gage both have in theirs.

The Author-Function of Ecoporn

One interesting link between Bart H. Welling’s Ecoporn: On the Limits of Visualizing the Nonhuman and other theorists read for class was the perception of the Author-Function. Similarly to how Barthe and Foucault address the situation of the author being replaced by the author-function, Welling addresses Ecoporn’s commercials which contain a unique author-function that is designed to remove guilt in consumers heads that is a result of man’s nature-destructive existence.
Ecoporn, as Welling defines it, is the way in which corporations portray themselves as environmentally friendly companies through advertisement when in reality their existence only negatively affects the environment. The “Ecoporn” that these companies create come in the form of advertisements-mostly commercials- that conjure up a convenient image of an environmentally friendly company. This links to Foucault’s notion of the author being replaced by the Author-Function when Welling explains, in just one example, how these companies create commercials that seem “natural” because there is no human author in the picture, which gives the viewer a sense of connection to raw, uninhabited nature because of the very absence of a guiding human being.

Welling's "Ecoporn"

            Welling’s article on “Ecoporn” was a term I had never heard of before, and the concept itself was something I had given very little thought too. Welling gives notion that individuals like myself, who are nature enthusiasts and lovers of the environment as a whole are being lied to in a sense. Like propaganda or product placement advertisement, individuals are seeing the nature from our living room television sets, and the environment that “they” want us to see.
            Beautiful nature calendars on sale in the mall promoting the protection of the rainforest, with every page photo shopped to eye pleasing perfection. The sunset, blues and reds dancing across the evening sky to make it seem as if the most picturesque place on earth, these are the calendars that line cubicle walls and keep us day dreaming during the mundane hours of the day. Now Welling is telling me that all this time I might be being ripped off and some of the money I donate to environmental protection, might not even be going there?

Ecoporn, and text as a subjugation of the natural

In Ecoporn, Welling writes about the manipulation of nature in order to create ecoporn. It seems to me that this concept can be applied to all texts. In class last week we talked about how the transcripts of Sojourner Truth’s speech were not true representations of the actual speech, but they were accepted anyways and their differences added meaning to the speech. For me, Welling’s essay brings up the idea that to create a text at all means to take the subject away from its natural form.

Welling writes on page 57 that ecopornography is created out of “highly idealized, anthromorphized views,” and that the images found in ecopornography are often “composed or manipulated to stress their subjects’ innate similarities to the human body and to human social and power structures.” When we looked at the transcriptions of Truth’s speech, we saw that each author had changed the text to emphasize what they had felt was most important. For Gage, we felt he had a desire to maintain the cadence of the speaker’s voice and the history that carried through in her accent. For Campbell, it was more important that the transcript be easy to read and more politically correct.

Man Cannot Speak For Her

The most compelling piece I took with me throughout last weeks readings was the adoption of the "feminine argument." I've learned about this form of speaking before but never knew how it began. As a voter in the upcoming election I have followed the presidential candidates closely and can see how this "feminine argument" is still so powerful yet underused. The invitation of audience participation brings about a unity in both the men and women and answering and that of the speaker no matter the sex. This brings about a unified need. Identification with audience is one of the key aspects taught in rhetoric class. It enforces ones ethos. It makes so much more sense when you see debates now and someone is fighting for a middle ground, that person is likely to be favored by more. This objective is reinforced in Heilbrun's piece when she realizes that changing the voice of the speech to the fictional voice identifies readers with her for many different reasons. The agency seems almost a balance between the two parties, the author and the reader, but weighing more towards the reader because much is up to interpretation and identification with one speaker may be for different traits that intended.

Ecoporn. What next?

On and off throughout the article, I noticed that the author had a tendency to rant- as if he got on a point and just wanted to spew and vent, and I was having a really hard time getting past some of it-especially when he went so far as to say that the models that we are shown in nature viewings-fighting other animals, fighting other males and breeding with the females just so the females can reproduce more males- were meant to "arouse fear in women and to promote the sense of needing men's protection." Through these parts I think he began to lose his validity and steer away from the argument on which he was making, which was the fact that humans tend to take advantage of nature by photographing and documenting the "outside world" in ways that aren't necessarily natural or accurate. I would like to know, if the author does not want programmers or people to watch documentaries which portray animals doing what they do every day-which does in fact, consist of eating, mating, fighting, and hunting-what else would he like us to watch? Would he rather us remain ignorant and not show any type of interest in the world around us in order to keep the purity and sanctity of the animal planet in tact?

A Floridian's response to Ecoporn

I am a Floridian. Between the campaigns for returning the Everglades to their pre-Disney state, to county-based efforts to limit storm drain runoff, to the issue occupying most of Welling's piece, protection of the Florida Panther, I have been living with conservation efforts since elementary school. Living in a cable-less household until high school, my family spent our evenings watching more wholesome television, usually PBS wildlife specials. My credit union was represented by the Florida Panther and every month, they had a new trading card featuring an endangered species to hand out to children who deposited into their savings accounts. My mother has an annual pass to our county's zoo which is supposed to help conservation projects.

After reading Welling's Ecoporn, though, I just feel confused and lied to, something I wasn't expecting to feel from this reading.

Agency is Also, a Neccessary Liar

For the sake of understanding Rhetorical action, I guess the point of Campbell's argument (for class) was that a text can become an agent, or have agency.


What I found more interesting was that she seems to quantify Agency on a level of what is "better," or what is "worse." I guess the definitions I want to use here for those words is based in, what was more effective, or which agency had the greater effect. Campbell, after exercising her agency in rewriting the speech in a more accurate manner, came to the realization that the effect of inserting the truth (or something closer to it) actually harmed Truth (the person) and her message. In contrast, Gage's agency turned the women's rights message into political activism for abolition. It was the switch in agency on part of the scriptor that seemed to govern clear differences in level of effect. And, since Campbell had revised this later in history, the switch in agency seemed to threaten the power and discourse behind the message.

"Truths Agency"

When reading Campbell I could not help but notice how she speaks of Truths agency, rather than calling her the agent. I felt that I started seeing more clearly the lines of what agency is and what an agent is. Truth is surely both. Much of her agency, as Campbell tells us, is lines reiterated from others as a part of the movements she is speaking about. This is what also makes her an agent; what Truth speaks about is larger than her own sufferings and she becomes an agent for the pain all women and slaves.  Being able to recognize how an agent and agency are different allows you to see how each work together. The two ideas coincide so much that is difficult to explain how they work so I will try to list them:

Pity and it really fair?

I found Barton's analysis of pity and fear being used throughout ads by The United Way to be very interesting. It was difficult for me to tell if Barton supported the use or was completely against it. I don't think that she truly took a side, but focused more on analyzing the issue. I do think that the read would have been more interesting if she did choose more of a side and somewhat criticized the issue. But, she still evaluated some very interesting points and made me look at the use of text in ads in a very different light. I also began to develop a different feeling in regards to the steps taken by the United Way. The most hard hitting example for me was the ad example of Arthur and Pamela. It seemed as if the pictures they used of the children were quite degrading and disrespectful. I think that it also gave off the wrong idea to its audience. The audience was beginning to believe that the only reason why these children became "better" was because of their money and getting "better" may be different to the children than how adults may view the situation.

the text as agency

In section 5 Campbell states that one of her definitions of agency is that it is textual or that “texts have agency” (Campbell, 7). She goes on to talk about how a text has many different audiences that are to read the text written but that it is the form of the text that holds the power of it. It allows them to categorize what they are reading. She goes on later to say that “form is the foundation of all communication, but it is also a type of agency that has the power to separate a text form its nominal author” (Campbell, 7). So with Campbell saying this and her discussion of Gage’s fictive text I think I can finally understand why she decided it might be a bad idea to have removed the dialect that smothered the text in the first place. Even though, as we discussed in class, that Truth was a freed Dutch American slave with English being her second language, not a broken black southern accent, in my mind she seems like someone who represented everyone as a whole so maybe Gage wrote the speech in a way that would be more relatable to the type of demographic at the time.