The comedy of survival: studies in literary ecology. Front Cover. Joseph W. Meeker. Scribner, – Literary Criticism – pages. The comedy of survival: literary ecology and a play ethic. Responsibility: Joseph W. Meeker. Edition: 3rd ed. Imprint: Tucson: University of Arizona Press, c Meeker argues that the destructive aspects of western civilization are founded on the tragic mode, while the comic mode offers a path for redemption.

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Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Since publication of the first edition more than twenty years ago, The Comedy of Survival has been credited as the founding work in the field of literary ecology, the study of relationships between the literary arts and scientific ecology. Here, Joseph Meeker expands upon his consideration of comedy and tragedy, not as dramatic motifs for humor and sadness but durvival as forms of adaptive behavior in the natural world that either promote our survival aurvival or comed us from other life forms tragedy.

In this third major edition of his classic work, Meeker examines the role of literature in shaping such behavior. Drawing surviva, centuries of western writing from Dante to Shakespeare to E. Wilson, he demonstrates the universality of comedy in both human and animal behavior and shows how the comic mode helps us to live in harmony with nature.

Meeker then defines the tragic view of life, interweaving that behavior with exploitation of the environment. With imagination and flair, the author also introduces the idea of a play ethic, as opposed to a work ethic, and demonstrates the importance of play as a necessary and desirable component of the comic spirit.

Within a growing body of environmental literature dealing with spirituality, ethics, ecofeminism, nature writing, and alternative lifestyles, Meeker’s is a one-of-a-kind book, combining elements of literary criticism, ethology, New Age thinking, and personal narrative. Full of provocative twists and turns, The Comedy of Survival is a book for literary critics, environmentalists, human ecologists, philosophers, and anthropologists.

Many will find much to ponder in this clear explication of how we might become better stewards of the Earth. Read more Read less. Discover Prime Book Box for Kids. Customers who viewed this item also viewed. Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. The Comedy of Survival: In Search of an Environmental Ethic. Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Rose City. The comedy of survival;: Studies in literary ecology. Customers who bought surrvival item also bought.

University of Arizona Press; 3 edition July 1, Language: I’d like to read this book on Kindle Don’t have a Kindle? Share your thoughts with other customers.

Write a customer review. Showing of 2 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. I will just review the key ideas of the comic mode and afterwards comment on chapter 4, ‘Hamlet and the Animals’. Joseph Meeker is a biologist who turned his talents to the study of literature.


His contributions have an ecological and evolutionary flavour and can be classified as eco-criticism.

His best known work is a study of comedy and tragedy from the mid s which are restated in this volume. Tragedy, Meeker says, is characterised by a struggle between the hero and forces greater than themselves. These forces may be Nature, the gods, fate, passionate love, hatred, morality, injustice and so on.

The prerequisite for tragedy, according to Meeker, is that the universe cares about the sufferings of these extraordinary tragic heroes.

Meeker also argues that this tragic way or mode of behaviour is a cultural artefact and somewhat “unnatural”.

People are not born with a predisposition to die for causes they are taught this, or they imitate examples of so-called heroes found in Classic and Renaissance literature. Comedy on the other hand is found wherever humans are. He suggests that it is universal, genetically based and therefore natural. Comedy is about avoiding comery and always seeking a compromise such that would ensure your survival.

Under the comic mode comrdy behavior there is nothing worth dying for.

These ideas resonate and have a certain appeal. His work comddy Hamlet on the other hand is spurious and I think he is mistaken. In the essay ‘Hamlet and the Animals’ contained in this volume, Meeker asserts that Hamlet tries throughout the play to avoid violence by converting ” He thus reverses the usual processes of tragic action, which usually move from word to deed, argument to battle, threats to murder. But even this is only partially true. Meeker also claims that Hamlet might demonstrate redirected aggression.

Animals that have the ability to kill an opponent of the same species do not. Instead, they turn away when they sense their adversary is defeated, and attack some defenseless object.

This is no doubt true, but it does not transfer to Hamlet’s situation either physically or verbally.

The Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic by Joseph W. Meeker

Meeker cites the example of Hamlet’s verbal attack on Polonius and Guildenstern after the fracas of The Mousetrap. He purports that these characters are innocent even though they are allied to the king. There is no direct threat in their manner or intentions regarding him Hamlet attacks them with the weapons he controls best: For Hamlet they are disingenuous spies and constitute a threat albeit an indirect one.

Comsdy are coedy not innocent. This is at its best a very tenuous example of redirected aggression, at its worst it is none at all. I think that Hamlet’s motives for not acting and taking violent revenge are not expressions of redirected aggression. They are not, simply because his behaviour does not fit the definition.

Instead, Hamlet’s inaction is due to his uncertainty which can be interpreted as cowardice. Nevertheless, Hamlet does not fear dying or killing. What he fears is the possible threat of divine punishment for committing suicide or murder; “Conscience doth make cowards of us all”. Meeker has built his essay on a very weak and erroneous foundation of so-called redirected aggression.


Once this concept is dismissed then the house of cards collapses. The tragedy in Meeker’s essay is that he is convinced of its veracity to the exclusion of all others possible points of view: This essay is a warning to us about how easy it is to take a good idea too far, and to see what we want to see in a text.

This is an engagingly written book, but it is anachronistic happy talk.

The Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic

The author advances “the meeoer of survival” as an ecological concept, which makes a rhe of sense, since organisms are always looking for a “happy ending” to their day-to-day attempts to stay alive. From this, however, he infers that a medieval writer like Dante was an early “ecologist” meeoer his writing repudiated meejer Classical world’s tragic view of human life as limited and mortal, and substituted a “comedic” Christian view of human life as leading to eternal bliss.

Somehow, the author neglects the fact that Dante’s eternal bliss was only for saved Christians, that they were saved by rejecting earthly, biological life, and that those who didn’t reject “the flesh” faced the eternity of torment which Dante described so much more colorfully than his eternity of bliss.

Who’d read The Divine Comedy now without the Inferno? When another late medieval Christian poet, Petrarch, climbed beautiful Mount Ventoux in southern France, it wasn’t to enjoy the natural landscape, but to get as far away from it as possible. If you comedt an early ecologist, fast forward a few centuries and read William Bartram. What other items do customers buy after viewing this surviva In Search of an Environmental Ethic Paperback.

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