Chapters in Edited Collections
“The Work of Literature in a Multispecies World.” The Educational Significance of Non-human Animals and Human Animal Interactions. Eds. Suzanne Rice and A. G. Rud. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015. Print. [Rice and Rud’s collection, The Educational Significance of Non-human Animals and Human Animal Interactions: Blurring the Species Line has been awarded the 2016 American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Critics Choice Book Award]
From the introduction:
In Chapter 8, Aaron Moe also discusses literature in relation to human animals and non-human animals, but seeks to illuminate a rather different dimension of this relation. Moe discusses the literature classroom as a place where students can be encouraged to examine the lives of actual, biological animals. In this context, students may encounter literature that calls on them to rethink what are usually considered solely human attributes: “language, speech, culture, rhetoric, agency, poetics, intelligence.” The concept of zoopoetics figures importantly in Moe’s analysis and illustrates ways in which animal gestures and vocalizations contribute to the formal, as well as substantial content of literature, ranging from Walt Whitman to W. S. Merwin. A turkey-hen for Whitman is not simply a bird as Other, Moe argues, but has a bodily poetics different from, but also related to, human poetics. The boundary between turkey poetics and human poetics is porous, and not simple or static. Citing Kenneth Burke, Moe shows how these boundaries can function as “terministic screens,” where language selects a reality while deflecting other realities. Animal Studies today undermines the terministic screen of human-centric language and culture prevalent in the humanities. Moe invites us to read works that attend to other species, such as Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick or the poetry of Walt Whitman or Gary Snyder. Engaging students in such reading is one way in which we might help them to “cultivate a respectful attentiveness” to those among us with fins, feathers, or fur.
“Poetics.” The Edinburgh Companion to Animal Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Forthcoming. Print.
“The Zoopoetics of Roethke’s ‘The Pike.’ A Field Guide to the Poetry of Theodore Roethke. Ed. William Barillas. (Forthcoming 2016).
This piece places a close reading of Philip Levine’s “Animals are Passing from our Lives” in the context of Jaak Panksepp’s work on affective neuroscience as well as T. S. Eliot’s objective correlative. Panksepp has provided a substantial “weight of evidence” concerning how mammals share seven primal emotions, including GRIEF/PANIC, PLAY, and RAGE. Levine’s poem creates several images that evoke these emotive states shared by humans, pigs, squirrels, and other mammals. And so, even though Levine projects thoughts into the pig’s mental space, those thoughts/images prompt the reader to identify with the pig’s emotive state moments before he is slaughtered. The poem, then, tells the pig’s story not from a ‘human’ point of view; rather it is from a mammal point of view.
“Toward a Zoopolis: Animal Poiesis and the Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Brenda Hillman.” Forum for World Literature Studies 6.1 (2014). Special issue on Animality and Ecocriticism. Guest Editor Scott Slovic.
The poetry of Emily Dickinson and Brenda Hillman casts nonhuman animals as part of the polis. Their perspective resonates with the emergent animal rights theory, explored by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, that draws on political theory in order to rethink animal-human relationships in what they call the zoopolis. Dickinson and Hillman’s perspective further informs the zoopolis. For both poets, animals have earned their place in a multispecies polis because of the self-evident manifestations of their alternative ways-of-making. Such poetry calls for expanding both the poetic tradition and the polis to include other animal makers. Whereas my book focuses on Hillman’s Practical Water, this article explores her 2013 Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire.
Here, I demonstrate that zoopoetics is not a minor event in American poetry of the long 20th century, for I highlight how zoopoetics is at work in the very genesis of Whitman’s poetic vision: “original energy.” Whitman’s poetics of the body is not limited to the human; rather, nonhuman animals also generate and respond to the material energy of the body. I argue that Whitman’s poetic vision is consanguineous with Kennedy’s theory of a universal (human & nonhuman) rhetoric founded on the rhetorical energy of the body. Moreover, I demonstrate how Whitman discovered some of his most innovative breakthroughs in poetic form through an attentiveness to another species’ bodily poiesis.
This essay introduces a more thorough understanding of zoopoetics into literary discourse. Zoopoetics, in short, is a perspective that exposes how the agency of nonhuman animals are handled in a text. Though the notion of “agency” can have many possible facets, I focus on an agency that arises from how nonhuman animals are imaginative, rhetorical, and cultural beings. The second half of the essay, then, applies zoopoetics to close readings of texts by Cummings and Merwin.
When scholars discuss Cummings’ Fairy Tales, they normally focus on the biographical context: Cummings wrote three of them for his daughter when she didn’t know he was his dad, and one of them, presumably, for his grandchild. This essay exposes, though, how many of the crucial tropes throughout Cummings’ life long vision emerge in an early tale in surprising ways.
In this article, I expose how EIMI documents Cummings’ cultivation of an ecological self within the cities of New York, Paris, Moscow, Odessa, Kiev, and Istanbul…and how No Thanks continues the thematic exploration of two ideas: 1) the liminal space between SHUTNESS & OPENNESS; and 2) the individual’s cultivation of an interrelated self in an urban context. Cummings’ i is often seen as a statement of individuality, but my read locates the i as a continuation of Whitman’s all-encompassing and ever-expanding self.
This is by no means an exhaustive look at Cummings’ use of the exclamation mark and the motif of look within his work; however, it does a good job of establishing the dialogical interplay between these two ideas. The essay makes three moves: 1) it explores both motifs; 2) it explores their explicit convergence and, in turn, the implicit implications; and 3) it locates this discussion within an ecocritical context.
I dedicate this article to my students, who discovered the cat’s flips and taught me how to look.
For quite some time, I thought that Cummings’ grasshopper poem outperformed any other experiment Cummings created. Now, however, I am not so sure. The essay employs a two fold approach to Cummings’ cat poem: 1) a close reading of the poem from the perspective of chaos theory; and 2) a discussion of the thematic implications of the poem’s conflation of ! with the lowercase i.
“Chaos & the ‘New’ Nature Poem: A Look at E. E. Cummings’ Poetry.” CT Review 32.1 (2010): 11–24. Print and Web.
This article establishes several key terms from chaos theory including (dis)order, turbulence, feedback loops, autopoiesis, and complexity, and then it demonstrates how the language of chaos theory electrifies a close reading of Cummings’ visual poems. Each of the visual poems explored epitomize an extreme upheaval of language, but an underlining and inscrutable pattern (a deep structure) paradoxically infuses the linguistic ruptures. Cummings draws the reader’s attention to the details of nature through his innovative crafting of the details of language–but it is a language intensified by the harmonious tension between order and disorder. The coexistence of (dis)order epitomizes chaos, and well before Edward Lorenz’s discovery of the flap of the butterfly wing, Cummings had already delved deeply into the chaotic flux of language.
“Poetry & Expanding the Ecological Self: A Contextualization of Cummings’ Typographies within the Modernist Ecological Vision.” Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society 16 (2007): 134–155. Print.
Despite the fact that innovative experimentation marks many modernist texts, Cummings is still sometimes categorized as a periphery figure. Like Eliot, Stein, Pound, and Lowell, Cummings developed a unique poetics built around a play within the oxymoron “fragmentary wholeness.” However, “Poetry & Expanding the Ecological Self” seeks to contextualize Cummings within what has been called the greener side of modernism. Using Arne Naess’ idea of ecological identification, the article explores how the language of many modernist writers, including Cummings, nudges the reader into an awareness of the interconnections within the fabric of the earth.
Broken Dimanche Press published Protean Poetics as a leaflet in the parapoetics series. Comprised of 84 aphorisms, Protean Poetics follows the “nameless yeast” of Moby-Dick in order to hold on to Proteus, but not with an aim to conquer, or to map, or to cage. Rather, the project seeks to discover what might open up in the unstable genre of aphorism, with its freedom to leap, linger, and leap again.
Though I revised this piece while at Washington State University, I originally wrote it when living in Colorado, working as a teacher, an arborist, and yet pursuing a scholarly career. Elements from each of these facets of my life emerge in the article as it blends personal narrative and ecocritical theories into what I hope is a provocative exploration of living with trees in an urban context. As (perhaps) expected (for people who know me), I sprinkle ideas from Merwin, Cummings, and Whitman into the conversation as well.
Reviews and Short Pieces
“‘Wreading’ Merwin: A Review of Until Everything is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W. S. Merwin. Blog Post on Merwin Studies: Poetry | Poetics | Ecology. Eds. Aaron M. Moe and Rebecca L. Stull. 15 March 2013. Web.
“A Review of Iain Landles’ The Case for Cummings: A Reaction to the Critical Misreading of E. E. Cummings.” Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society 17 (2010): 149–151 Print.
All this work by Aaron Moe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://aaronmoe.com.