Nathaniel Rivers's blog

Editorial for Spring 2010

By Andy King

During the past three months manuscripts from England, Wales, Germany, and China have been submitted to the KB Journal. One reviewer experiencing vertigo and world weariness from the vast influx asked if Burke, that former disciple of the regionalist Van Wyck Brooks, would have approved this journal “going international.” I answered that he would have enjoyed it immensely. In the last decades of his life, Burke loved his growing fame. Had his work been eagerly read by giant sloth worms on Neptune or even horribly misconstrued by methane-breathing fire birds on the sun-blistered surface of Mercury, Burke would have been delighted. He would have been eager to engage their counter-statements.

Social Identity as Grammar and Rhetoric of Motives: Citizen Housewives and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring

Tara Lynne Clapp, Iowa State University


Literature is not only equipment for living, but equipment for social organization. In this paper, I propose the construct of a ‘social identity’ to name a grammatical interpretation of the world that is used rhetorically in social organization, identification and division. The worldview of the ‘citizen’ in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is an identity for organizing against contamination, came to life through the media, and has been activated in the environmental justice movement. First published in 1962, Silent Spring was an attack on the large scale use of pesticides and herbicides without regard for ecological consequences. The war on insects is a war against our own bodies. Through an innovative ecological application of the pastoral, Silent Spring created ambiguity in the boundary between the ecological scene and the (scene)-agent of the housewife. This ambiguity of substance provides resources for identification between the ecological scene and our ecologically scenic selves. The social identity of Silent Spring was taken up almost immediately in the immediate fight against DDT. Since then, the basic grammar of Silent Spring has been taken up in several characteristic types of environmental activism. I argue that a Citizen Housewife social identity – innovative in its ecological identification – can be traced from Silent Spring through to its uses in local environmental justice organizing.