Visions from the tide pool: John Steinbeck’s cooperative ecology

McNeilly, Sam (2015) Visions from the tide pool: John Steinbeck’s cooperative ecology. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    This project explores the importance of John Steinbeck’s ecological perspective in relation to his literature. By building upon the work of Steinbeck scholars such as James C. Kelley and Brian E. Railsback, I argue that Steinbeck’s literature addresses the growing issue of humanity’s position within the environment and illustrates how an ecological philosophy based on cooperation will bring about a greater harmony within both natural and social environments. Firstly, I aim to examine and outline Steinbeck’s ecological philosophy as set out in his scientific travel narrative The Log from the Sea of Cortez before exploring the ways in which the observations of this text were dramatised in his novels 'To a God Unknown', 'Cannery Row', and 'The Grapes of Wrath'.
    By using what James C. Kelley observed as a cycle of understanding in Steinbeck’s literature I argue that visceral, scientific, and transcendent understandings work towards a philosophy that I have termed Cooperative Ecology. These three perspectives illustrate the potential harmony and strength that resides in cooperating with one’s natural and social environments. Visceral understanding occurs through an acceptance of intuitive knowledge which is then rationalised through a scientific understanding grounded in non-teleological thinking. Finally, transcendent understanding is attained through an awareness of the interrelated web of nature: the combination of these three understandings leads to the philosophy of Cooperative Ecology which allows one to understand how the strength and efficacy of natural law is derived from a cooperative principle. Steinbeck’s most prevalent dramatisation of the potential of cooperation occurs through the fictionalisation of ideas forwarded in his unpublished essay ‘Argument of Phalanx’, in which he argues that when organisms work together they form a phalanx that has greater strength than the sum of its individual components. Through a transcendent recognition of the global ecosystem’s interdependent structure, Steinbeck demonstrates the importance of cooperation to the attainment of ecological and social harmony.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2016 14:22
    Last Modified: 21 Jan 2016 14:22

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