The Song of the Earth

Jonathan Bate, Author Harvard University Press $46.5 (360p) ISBN 978-0-674-00168-8
This ambitious, erudite critical study from University of Liverpool English literature professor Bate seeks to recast Romantic poetry from the Wordsworthian ""egotistical sublime"" to an ecological one. Romantic literature's love of nature, its fierce individualism and its political radicalism make it a plausible candidate for planting the seeds of the Green movement. As Bate observes, Wordsworth and Coleridge published their seminal Lyrical Ballads in the same year that Thomas Malthus sounded his (premature) warnings of overpopulation. Likewise, he notes how changed global weather patterns resulting from a volcanic eruption could inspire both Byron's ""Darkness"" and Keats's ""To Autumn."" Amplifying on his astute readings of these poets, as well as Austen, Bishop, Hardy, Larkin and Stevens, Bate formulates his own idea of ""ecopoesis,"" a poetics of human habitation within nature, instead of pastoralism's facade. Poetry, in effect, imagines locally and inspires globally for Bate. Philosophically, his argument is as much against literary Modernism, and its critical adjunct, New Criticism, as it is against techno-industrialization and postmodern mass culture. His array of philosophical sources, from Rousseau and Burke to Adorno and Heidegger, seeks to cover the bases of canonical and contemporary thought, as well as contrasts with feminist theory, New Historicism and postcolonial criticism. In some respects, however, Bate's tastes are stringently traditional: his ideal of an ecopoet is not the contemporary, environmentally correct Gary Snyder, but the minor Romantic ""peasant poet"" John Clare. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/18/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Open Ebook - 372 pages - 978-1-4472-0697-2
Paperback - 360 pages - 978-0-674-00818-2
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