From Mourning to Meditation: Theorizing Ecopoetics, Thinking Ecology
Curran, Jessica Lee
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Composed of twelve chapters and argued through the months of the year, this dissertation analyzes the works of Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau, situating them in a contemporary ecocritical context, but more importantly, in a widened sense of ecopoetics. The project's thesis states that the ecopoet, in mourning the loss of nature as idealization and salvation, embraces a state of radical metaphor-making, which in turn allows for a heightened sense of intimacy and necessitates a commitment to meditation. The cultivation of intimacy and the practice of meditation lie at the heart of ecological thinking and being. In order to theorize ecology in relation to meditation, the project interrogates and rethinks "meditation" as a canonical term through an intervention of non-western epistemology. In moving with the calendar, the chapters address key ecopoetic figures (the stranger, the field, the garden, the heart), processes (mourning, breathing, singing), and literary practices (the notebook, the letter, the calendar). In shaping this narrative of ecopoesis, multiple genres are discussed in relation to meditative practice as a form of diurnal awareness, including the epistle, ode, haiku, journal, lyric fiction, and elegy. In turn, analysis of Dickinson and Thoreau is supplemented by a range of other voices, including contemporary poets Jane Hirshfield, W.S. Merwin, and Juliana Spahr. The project reaches back to Horace's Stoic and Epicurean education for ecopoetic roots in the West and forward to contemporary global extensions and analogues, in particular, Korean poet Ko Un. As ecological thinking requires scale elongation in both temporal and spatial planes, this dissertation ultimately argues for a new mode of reading ecologically, recognizing patterns of interrelation and modes of questioning that widen and deepen a shifting set of perspectives.