The backwoods of our backyards : Ontario pioneers and the crisis of ecology /
Pereira, Michael D.
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Early in his landmark ecocritical book The Comedy of Survival, Joseph Meeker develops an intriguing hypothesis about human behaviour. He remarks the species Homo sapiens tend to behave like an invasive or pioneering organism, entering a bio-geographical region and aggressively outcompeting all other species for space and resources. Moreover, he suggests, human cultural traditions, at least in the West, have reinforced such behaviour, continually insisting that the impulses he describes are both necessary and right. While Meeker's work goes on to assess a number of literary works in both the tragic and comic modes, his work never fully explores this hypothesis in the context of human pioneers; that is, there is no ~xploration o( how these themes manifest themselves within our culture and what role they might play in the culture of specific pioneering groups. This project is an attempt at just such an analysis, examining the validity of Meeker's hypothesis through a case study of settler literature in Upper Canada/Ontario between the . years 1800-1867. It explores Meeker's work within three main areas: first, Chapter Two situates his book historically within the field of ecocriticism, showing what came before and the explosion of ecocritical inquiry that followed its release. This chapter also delves into the rift between the natural sciences and humanities, arguing that a move towards deeper interdisciplinarity is r:tecessary for the future. Chapter Three examines the biological and ecological ground on which Meeker rests his hypothesis through exploring evolutionary biology as well as invasive and pioneer species behaviour. Lastly, Chapter Four examines how these ecological principles are manifested in the writings of early Canadian settlers, suggesting that Meeker's hypothesis indeed finds itself on stable footing.