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William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship

William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship: The Roots of Environmentalism in Nineteenth-Century Culture

Scott Hess
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrjn9
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  • Book Info
    William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship
    Book Description:

    InWilliam Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship,Scott Hess explores Wordsworth's defining role in establishing what he designates as "the ecology of authorship": a primarily middle-class, nineteenth-century conception of nature associated with aesthetics, high culture, individualism, and nation. Instead of viewing Wordsworth as an early ecologist, Hess places him within a context that is largely cultural and aesthetic. The supposedly universal Wordsworthian vision of nature, Hess argues, was in this sense specifically male, middle-class, professional, and culturally elite-factors that continue to shape the environmental movement today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3231-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    An 1846 guide to the Lake District,The Scenery and Poetry of the English Lakes,opens with two engravings.¹ On the left side, a well-dressed man gestures to his female companion at the waterfall at Scale Force, as if pointing out some feature for her appreciation. On the right, a more fanciful engraving presents what looks like a large bas-relief inscription of William Words worth’s head, as if for a tomb or medallion, inscribed with the name “W. Wordsworth,” with the book’s own title and author printed as if engraved in the stone base beneath. Labeled paintings of “S. T....

  5. CHAPTER ONE Picturesque Vision, Photographic Subjectivity, and the (Un)framing of Nature
    (pp. 21-67)

    The act of framing, according to Malcolm Andrews in his surveyLandscape and Western Art,defines and constitutes a landscape as such.¹ By providing definite boundaries, the frame organizes a view or a work of art into an aesthetic composition. At the same time, the frame separates the viewer from what is seen, creating a distinction in environmental terms between the landscape out there and the viewer’s position, on the other side of the frame. In so doing, the aesthetics of framing subtly reinforces many of the epistemological and ontological categories of modernity: the separation of the perceiving mind or...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Wordsworth Country: The Lake District and the Landscape of Genius
    (pp. 68-115)

    The idea of the literary landscape, associated with the genius of specific individual writers who preside over and/or inhabit them, emerged during the nineteenth century. It became common practice by the end of the century to designate regions after the writers associated with them, including not only “Wordsworth’s Lake District” or “Words worth Country” but also “Shakespeare Country” around Stratford-upon-Avon, “Scott-land” in Sir Walter Scott’s border region and the Trossachs, the “Land o’ Burns” around Ayreshire, “Brontë Country” in the west Yorkshire moors, “Dickens’s London,” and “Hardy’s Wessex,” to name a few of the more prominent and enduring.¹ The sudden...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Wordsworth’s Environmental Protest: The Kendal and Windermere Railroad and the Cultural Politics of Nature
    (pp. 116-155)

    In 1844 William Wordsworth conducted an almost single-handed public campaign to keep the railways from entering the inner sanctum of the Lake District, a mile above Bowness along the shore of Windermere. Wordsworth’s campaign was unsuccessful, as he himself anticipated, and the rail line from Kendal to Lake Windermere was approved without significant delay, opening for service just three years later in 1847.¹ Wordsworth’s opposition to the railways in the name of landscape aesthetics, however, provided an important precedent for various defenses of the Lake District that would follow and for the development of an environmental movement overall. His construction...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Lake District and the Museum of Nature
    (pp. 156-186)

    Appreciation of nature during the nineteenth century was closely intertwined with the discourse of art and the institution of the public art museum. The previous two chapters explored the construction of special literary or aesthetic landscapes, such as the Lake District, set apart from the ordinary social and economic life of modernity for the expression of genius, individualized subjectivity, and high-cultural imagination. This chapter will discuss the analogy between such landscapes and the corresponding emergence of the public art museum, as both kinds of spaces naturalized distinctively middle-class subjectivities and values and in so doing made those values central to...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE “My Endless Way”: Travel, Gender, and the Imaginative Colonization of Nature
    (pp. 187-222)

    William Wordsworth’s relation to place in his poetry has two main tendencies, seemingly opposed to one another. On one hand, from his earliest published works,Evening WalkandDescriptive Sketches(1793), through the epicExcursion(1814) and continuing into his lateMemorials of a Tour on the Continent(1820) andMemorials of a Tour in Italy(1837), Wordsworth’s poetry, like the poet himself, returns again and again to the experience of travel.¹ Yet on the other hand, Wordsworth defined himself and his vocation as a poet who settled in place, an “Author retired to his native mountains,” as he put...

  10. EPILOGUE The Ecology of Authorship versus the Ecology of Community
    (pp. 223-236)

    William Wordsworth’sPrelude,the autobiographical story of how he developed his authorial genius and fulfilled his youthful promise as the “chosen Son” (3.82) of Nature, begins with the poet leaving the city and the “unnatural self” (1.23) he associates with it. Wordsworth reassumes his “natural” self in terms of radical individual freedom, addressing the breeze that blows against his cheek:

    A Captive greets thee, coming from a house

    Of bondage, from yon City’s walls set free,

    A prison where he hath been long immured.

    Now I am free, enfranchis’d and at large,

    May fix my habitation where I will. (6...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 237-262)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 263-282)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 283-290)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-292)