Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Project Proposal

Jonathan Lee
Prof. Adam Johns
Seminar in Composition

Proposal for Final Project

Title: Edward Abbey’s Mystical Anarchism


FBI files on Edward Abbey: These files on Abbey document the extent of Abbey’s anarchism and activism, and would be useful in establishing the discussion of Abbey as an anarchist.

On the History of Mystical Anarchism in Russia (V.V. Nalimov): an essay outlying the Mystical Anarchist movement among the Russian intelligentsia in the early 20th century.  I’m using this essay to establish a precedent for Mystical Anarchism, as you suggested I do. 

Edward Abbey – A Life (James M. Cahalan): A biography of Abbey.  Contains elements of Abbey’s upbringing, which could be potentially useful in understanding his religious background and his exposure to anarchism.

Confessions of a Barbarian-selections from the journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989: These journal entries are interesting, and offer insight into Abbey’s development, travels, and ideas.  They demonstrate his early interest in anarchism, and also brush upon his religious beliefs.  Very useful.

Epitaph for a desert anarchist: the life and legacy of Edward Abbey: This is a portrait of Edward Abbey, and covers every facet of his beliefs.  It contains analysis of his personal writings, his life, and his writings.

Earth Apples: the poetry of Edward Abbey: This is collection of Abbey’s poetry.  After reading it at first, not much stands out that could be useful.  It’s an enjoyable read, and I’m sure I’ll find something.  The other literary criticism I’m using contains some analysis of his poetry, and could provide a starting point.  Still tentative.

The New West of Edward Abbey: This is a compilation of literary criticism of Abbey’s major works.  It has some interesting things to say about Desert Solitaire, as well as the Monkey Wrench Gang, which I feel would also be useful regarding my topic.

Anarchism: The Morality of Violence: Abbey’s own dissertation.

Proposed Argument:
Abbey’s mysticism dictates anarchy, as anarchy entails the dismantling of corporate and government apparatus, which inevitably result in the destruction of nature, which constitutes the holiest shrine of Abbey’s faith.
Possible Counterarguments:
1.     Government infrastructure does not necessarily entail the destruction of nature, and therefore Abbey’s mysticism and government are not mutually exclusive. 
2.     Abbey is not a mystic, as he scoffs at various forms of religion.
3.     Abbey’s mysticism and anarchism are unrelated, as there is no evidence for a connection between the two.
Why the reader should care about this argument:
·      The reader should care about this argument because it provides a lens through which one can view Abbey.
·      The reader should care about this argument because it addressed mysticism, anarchism, and the relationship between the two.  Anarchism and mysticism are topics that are of the utmost importance to politics, philosophy, and society, and establishing a link between the two provides a better understanding of each.

Outline of Final Project:
·      In the introductory paragraph, I rushed on the unpacking of the Taoist quote.  This quote has the potential to definitively glue together anarchism and mysticism, and I didn’t allocate the appropriate space for criticism.  This revision will first seek to correct this.
·      The second portion of the project will introduce the Mystical Anarchism that can be found in Russian Symbolism.  Here I will utilize Nalimov to establish precedence for the fusion of anarchism and mysticism.  This portion will also be dedicated to outlying the various ways that Abbey can be applied to the main principles of this movement.  I have yet to find a source that adequately outlines this movement, however, as Nalimov’s essay is primarily a history.  The Mystical Anarchism manifesto is proving quite hard to find, but would be perfect for this topic.  Another option would be to read Tolstoy, and try to ascertain the tenets of the movement directly.  According to Wikipedia, Dostoyevsky also contributed to the movement, and as I’m quite familiar with Crime and Punishment, and can see some potential relating to this topic, I might try to work it in.  This portion of the project is among the main additions of this revision.
·      Next I will work to establish Abbey’s anarchism.  This time I will draw from his biography and FBI files.  Then I will appropriate some material from my earlier revision.
·      Last revision, I dwelled much too long on outlining Abbey’s mysticism.  This was due to the fact that originally the essay was catered to the prompt regarding mysticism.  However, this much material discussing his mysticism is no longer appropriate for my new argument, and I will work to condense this material.  Furthermore, since my first draft I have found more compelling and felicitous evidence, which has the potential to condense this section further.  This is where I plan to cut the most.
·      I’m yet unsure as to when to introduce the counterargument.  If I were to utilize “Anarchism and Mysticism are unrelated” I could use it as an introduction to my portion on the history of Russian Mystical Anarchism.  If I were to utilize “Abbey’s mysticism and government are not mutually exclusive,” I could dedicate a section to outlying the devastating effects government has always had, and use these to assert that government does and always will inevitably work to destroy the environment.
·      I will conclude with the assertion the Abbey’s mysticism and anarchism are logically equivalent, and stating that Abbey’s ideology descends from the Russian tradition, although it also contains influences from green anarchism, in the tradition of Thoreau and Tolstoy.

My sources would allow a further exploration of Abbey’s own green anarchism.  Addressing the topic is certainly necessary, due to the massive influence of The Monkey Wrench Gang.  If I were to effectively establish Abbey’s mysticism with regard to nature, I could easily justify the implicit connection to ecological anarchism, and therefore anarchism in general.  Is this too circuitous?  And where in the project would it best be suited?


  1. Joe proposed that I cut Abbey out of the paper, and center the argument solely on anarchism. I think this broadens the scope of the essay to much, but its still something to consider. I’m inclined to make the essay about Abbey, because I’m especially interested in his specific contribution to anarchism, and I have the required sources to do so.
    Both Olivia and Joe advised against adding green anarchism, as they said that it seemed like too much, and might lead to a circular argument, begging the question. However, I think that introducing green anarchism might in fact strengthen my argument, as it could solidify my point logically. There is also a huge body of sources upon which I could draw, including Abbey’s own work. This is still tentative though, because it would involve significantly expanding the essay. Cutting some of the other material that I’m covering could do it.
    They advocated for the first proposed argument, and I agree. This does not mean that I won’t cover the others in a small, possibly implicit way.

  2. This is a good proposal, and sounds like lots of fun. I could just leave it at that, but I'll add a couple more things.

    1) All of your proposed ideas and directions sound good individually, but you are probably being pulled in too many directions. If, for instance, Russia quickly drops away don't feel bad - you can't do it all (minor note - Dostoevsky is a stretch here. An interesting stretch, maybe, but I wouldn't go there).

    2) "If I were to effectively establish Abbey’s mysticism with regard to nature, I could easily justify the implicit connection to ecological anarchism, and therefore anarchism in general. Is this too circuitous? And where in the project would it best be suited?" -- It's not too circuitous. Arguably you're trying to prove that being truly green demands anarchism, and vice versa. That makes sense, and I suspect Abbey would agree. Where does it fit? Maybe at the very start. If the essay is going to stay focused on Abbey as such (rather than, e.g., your advocacy for his causes), I think this is something that firmly belongs in the first paragraph.

    That's it. Full speed ahead, but don't be shy about finding ways to cut and focus as you go. All your ideas are good, but they won't all fit.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.