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ISSUE 118 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/8/2004

It's not easy being 'green'

By Lauren Hoffman
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 8, 2004

Thanks to Kermit the Frog, we all know its not that easy being green. And, thanks to Mark Allister and friends, attendees of Wednesday evenings book reading in Viking Theater understand that its also not that easy being (or understanding) a green man.

A recently released anthology edited by Professor of English Mark Allister examines the inextricable relationship between masculinity and nature. Allister and St Olaf colleagues and fellow anthology contributors Associate Professor of English Jim Heynen and Professor of History Jim Farrell shared their thoughts and passages from Eco-Man: New Perspectives on Masculinity and Nature to a small but enthusiastic audience of students and faculty.

The anthology itself has its roots in a conference panel of which Allister was a part. In his academic studies, Allister had noticed the very marginal overlap in the disciplines of mens studies and environmental studies; thus, he set about creating a work that he hoped would bridge the gap between the two areas in an attempt to widen the lens through which both men and nature are viewed.

Allister began Wednesdays book reading by sharing thoughts from the introduction he authored for the collection, and explaining the content of and motivation for the book.

Allister emphasized the fact that Eco Man is not, and was not intended to be, an academic text. The authors he edited are both male and female and write from a wide variety of academic backgrounds and personal belief systems, and the subject matter of the collection is incredibly diverse, including pieces on the urban wilderness of hip-hop and the rehabilitating effects of nature on cows.

Heynen was the next to speak. He read from his essay When Tillage Begins, a meditation on the themes of masculinity and nature as reflected in the life of his own father, an Iowa farmer. Heynen remembered his father as the alpha male of their small farming community, a man who, by necessity, approached nature with brutality as he worked with the land and animals that were his livelihood.

However, as Heynens tale unfolded, the role nature played in his fathers life evolved; listeners were left not with the image of a cruel cattle brander, but of an old man watching birds in an aviary outside his retirement home.

Finally, Farrell took the stage to share from his piece The Nature of My Life.

Like Heynens contribution, Farrells essay also had personal overtones as he examined the nature that surrounds him, both real and synthetic, as he lives and works in suburbia. Farrell found meaning in everything from the role of pets in our lives to the fact that our Kleenex boxes are floral-printed.

Through their examinations of personal and universal, fabled and factual ties, Allister, Heynen and Farrell imparted a well-rounded perspective of mans capricious relationship to nature in their excerpts from Eco-Man.

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