Problems with “Lights, Cameras, Eco-Action!”
by Cathy Cupitt

This commentary discusses my essay Lights, Cameras, Eco-Action! which is also available online.

In the light of critical comment from my peers, and my own reassessment, there are several aspects of my essay that I consider problematic. I have outlined the most important of these below.

There were a couple of problems with the essay as a whole. I found the 2,500 word limit rather confining, having become used to writing essays of greater length for fourth year units. As a result I misjudged what I could achieve, and attempted to cover too much ground. A slightly smaller scope, with more attention to detail would have made the essay tighter and more thematically effective. This could have been done by reigning in the introductory and concluding sections (especially the references to Star Wars, although I like this metaphor), and focussing more on the three main themes.

To make my argument stronger I should have framed my topic in the form of a specific question (or questions) in the introduction, and concluded with a precis of the answer(s). This wouldn’t have affected the content greatly, but would have significantly unified the whole. Two questions obviously implied by the essay, but never overtly stated, are: “does the environment define notions of self?”; and “how is the environment used to define notions of self?”. As my tutor pointed out (to my chagrin), I also should have justified the aspects of ‘self’ I chose to privilege in my analysis.

My tutor also expressed some concern over my chosen writing style. Although I appreciate the point, I still stand by my choice of style, and would make few changes to it.

There are a few specific aspects of the essay I would alter. In particular, there are two quotes I would excise and replace with my own text. The first is badly placed, requiring blatant manipulation to make it fit the essay’s context (Footnote 22

“The potency of th[is] …”). The second contains a problematic use of the phrase “literary theory” (Footnote 28 “In the vocabulary of …”). In addition to these excisions, I would also reconsider the placement of several quotations. During proof reading I didn’t notice that many of the essay’s thematic sections were concluded with quotes. I agree with my tutor that the essay would convey my own argument more forcefully if the placement of these excerpts were revised. However, I would keep one use of this device, Footnote 26 (“the grass would always …”). I couldn’t write this any better.

There are several sentences, words and phrases I would clarify. The most important of these is the ‘cover image‘ sentence which reads: “Instead the solution is a privileged conspiracy of escape, and it is no accident that the cover image chosen is of a resort, not unlike the Historic Museum Village of Copperfield.” It obviously does not convey the intended meaning. It should read something like this:

Instead the solution is a privileged conspiracy of escape. The Stark Conspiracy are portrayed as inventing a cover story to hide the development of their rocket site, which is that the development is for a luxury resort complex. This resort is described in terms somewhat similar to those used for the Historic Museum Village of Copperfield in The Bluebird Cafe. Elton is using a very apt image, as these kinds of resorts also represent a type of ‘space school’ thinking.

A classmate made some very good suggestions as to further issues it would have been fruitful and relevant to discuss, given my major themes. These included the issue of the definition of humanity as a whole in relation to Earth. Would we still be ‘human’ if we left Earth? Or is the notion of humanity directly connected to being Terran? Then there is the idea of the Frontier, which is alluded to in the essay, but not explored. Finally, he suggested the ‘self’ of the Author could be explored in relation to created/represented environments. I like all of these suggestions. However, as meeting the word limit was not one of my problems, I am almost glad they didn’t come to my attention sooner.

Overall I am reasonably pleased with what I achieved in “Lights, Cameras, Eco-Action!”. However, I believe it would be a stronger essay if these new insights were incorporated.

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