Primitivism

It was in class, while going back through the definition of the term “romanticism” in the Bedford, when I stumbled across the term that announced itself, in my mind, as the characterization of Zulus: primitivism. This doctrine illuminates itself in Everett’s piece as the reader realizes the doomed fate of humanity, which is a direct result of nuclear wars. These wars can only be had between advanced civilizations; between societies that have advanced knowledge and the power to execute that knowledge to the peak of its destructive force.

The Bedford defines primitivism as humanity being tainted by civilization, and the only way that humanity can reassume its natural “goodness” would be to return to the cradle of nature. Primitivists value the beauty found in cultures that are pre-civilization, or that separate themselves from civilization, such as “still existing tribal groups” (Murfin and Ray 406).

This focus on nature is what relates primitivism to the concept of romanticism, which praises nature in literary and artistic form. In Joe Moran’s Interdisciplinarity, he discusses an artist who had strong scientific inclinations in his artistic representations of nature. “Clare… was deeply affected by the process of enclosure, which deprived people of livelihoods and transformed the natural world by chopping down trees and damaging streams, and he wrote many poems about it” (Moran 159). This poetry is most reminiscent of nature-revering romanticism, but has a far more raw representation of nature, which utilizes very little “picturesque” descriptions (Moran 159).

As I discussed in my post regarding Everett’s interdisciplinary inclusion of biological concepts as figurative language in Zulus, it is a stimulating concept to be able to draw a parallel between John Clare, as discussed by Moran, and Percival Everett. Both of these men utilize scientific poetry in their creative expressions. Zulus shows a deep, underlying reverence for nature itself throughout the plot. Kevin Peters embodies this reverence, as shown when he makes assertions about his disgust toward what humanity did to the earth’s environment.

“’Is the water tainted?’ she asked.

Kevin Peters replied, ‘No more than we are.’” (Everett 64).

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