constrained romanticism

The commonly held notion that writing and speaking about 'nature' in a way that expresses awe or connection is a socially constructed, essentialized, and often romantic notion (Sandilands, 2002; Sandlos, 2002). Subsequently, it carries the risk of making it both professionally or personally difficult, to live and speak about connection with non-human Others.

Jeff and I talked at some length about what he could and could not say about going outdoors. The following excerpt from our final Coffee-House conversation highlights some of our shared dilemmas, including ways in which critiques of romanticism make it difficult to talk about connection.

I am not suggesting that experiences in the outdoors are not overlaid with layers of socially constructed discourses (e.g. Hayles, 1995; Watson, 2006), and that stock projections such as sunsets and gleaming mountain vistas are not problematic given that they can essentialize 'nature' and reproduce colonized and colonizing images of 'nature' (Barron, J., 1995; Sandilands, 2002; Sandlos, 2002).

Yet without other languages or ontologies, these images may at times be the best one can find to describe something for which it is difficult, if not impossible to find words. Perhaps the problem lies in the word itself. As Evernden (2002) explains, nature is a concept, an abstraction – "there is no such thing as nature. There are simply other entities" (p. 113) – or as Harvey (2006a, 2006b) puts it, other-than-human persons.