Preachin’ the Ecocriticism Gospel to the Young’uns

Believe in Ecocriticism, and ye shall be established; believe its prophets, and ye shall prosper!

The first day of spring yesterday was a fun one. I was invited* to give a lecture on ecocriticism to a class of high schoolers at the international IB high school here in Vaasa. The idea was that since the students are right now getting ready for their final exams, they might benefit from a fresh perspective on how to interpret literary works.

Ecocriticism has traditionally been confined mostly to university departments but lately there has been a move to involve younger students also. And, these students are actually already used to dealing with different literary theories in their literature classes so they were amply qualified to deal with this, too.

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Pic that I took when I was putting together the presentation for next day. The pheasant cock (yeah that’s what it’s called) just happened to be strolling by strutting his stuff when the train I was on stopped at a station along the way. This pic would probably look a bit more professional if I had coffee in my mug but oh well, I guess the professional ship sailed already.

I thought the lecture went quite well overall but as usual, having the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to see the couple of spots where I didn’t connect with the audience the way I like to do. I’ll revise my set if I do this again.

My main idea was to just give them the basics of ecocriticism, briefly introduce its history and show its scope and illustrate its potential in literary analysis with some examples. If I do this again, I’ll introduce more practical examples of what the students could do with ecocriticism and cut out the fluff. Talking about zombies and vampires and their ontological position in the life/death/nature/culture continuum seemed to be the most interesting part of the lecture.

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Pic of extremeresearcher lecturing to the young and bright audience. This is actually the first time I’m posting a pic of myself in this blog. I thought about blurring the face like they do in the TV show Cops but I don’t actually know how to do that. However, you can rest assured that this pic won’t open a can of worms where next time I’m posting a pic of myself topless. So, don’t go all King Oedipus on me and pre-emptively put your eyes out to avoid the horror.

After the lecture the students continued with an assignment where they were supposed to think of the classic Finnish novel Maa on syntinen laulu through an ecocritical lens. This task was prepared for them by their teacher and the idea was to prepare them for their final exams where this novel is one of the books that they’re supposed to be familiar with. Given the brevity of time that the students had I was very impressed with how quickly they seemed to grasp what was expected of them and how deep their insights were. I hope this stuff will benefit them when they finish their studies.

*Full disclosure: I was asked to give the presentation by my wife who teaches literature over there. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been invited otherwise.**

**Well OK, this isn’t actually the first time that I’ve been asked to speak publicly to a general audience. It’s always fun when someone is interested enough in what you do that they want to hear about it.

Featured image (not visible in mobile theme) of how I totally like see myself inspiring the younger generation and stuff, credit: cambridge.com of Good Will Hunting

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