Song Of The Earth / Edition 1

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Overview

As we enter a new millennium ruled by technology, will poetry still matter? The Song of the Earth answers eloquently in the affirmative. A book about our growing alienation from nature, it is also a brilliant meditation on the capacity of the writer to bring us back to earth, our home.

In the first ecological reading of English literature, Jonathan Bate traces the distinctions among "nature," "culture," and "environment" and shows how their meanings have changed since their appearance in the literature of the eighteenth century. An intricate interweaving of climatic, topographical, and political elements poetically deployed, his book ranges from greenhouses in Jane Austen's novels to fruit bats in the poetry of Les Murray, by way of Thomas Hardy's woodlands, Dr. Frankenstein's Creature, John Clare's birds' nests, Wordsworth's rivers, Byron's bear, and an early nineteenth-century novel about an orangutan who stands for Parliament. Though grounded in the English Romantic tradition, the book also explores American, Central European, and Caribbean poets and engages theoretically with Rousseau, Adorno, Bachelard, and especially Heidegger.

The model for an innovative and sophisticated new "ecopoetics," The Song of the Earth is at once an essential history of environmental consciousness and an impassioned argument for the necessity of literature in a time of ecological crisis.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement

The Song of the Earth begins from readings in the ecology of literature from the eighteenth century to the present day. Jane Austen, Cowper, Hardy, Ted Hughes, Elizabeth Bishop, Les Murray and others are explored for what they tell us about changing attitudes to landscape, to place, and what Bate calls, in a deliberate ecological metaphor, the "complex and delicate web" that holds together culture and environment...[this book] is the best of things, a book which will help its readers to think new thoughts—thoughts about poetry, about places, and about themselves.
— Grevel Lindop

Providence Journal

[Bate] establishes the reality of the ecological theme in English poetry. Building on a broad literature in philosophy and biology as well as literary studies, Bate defines ecological poetry as that which 'sees into the life of things' (Wordsworth) but also respects the integrity of the physical world...This book has a powerful impact...[Bates's] moral concerns, deeply held and deeply considered, never blur the sharp edges of literary or natural fact. His readings are compelling rediscoveries of poems we thought we knew already...The Song of the Earth fairly hums with intelligence and passion. It is itself a demonstration of the interplay between literature and nature that it celebrates. It could change your life.
— Tom D'Evelyn

The Wordsworth Circle

Jonathan Bate's The Song of the Earth provides a visionary agenda for all subsequent ecocritical writing. Bate has broadened the intellectual and critical foundation of his earlier ecocritical work…When Bate masters historical evidence and insightful analyses of discrete Romantic writing, as he does in Major Weather, he achieves a broad authority that is captivating and seductive.
— Mark Lussier

Times Literary Supplement - Grevel Lindop
The Song of the Earth begins from readings in the ecology of literature from the eighteenth century to the present day. Jane Austen, Cowper, Hardy, Ted Hughes, Elizabeth Bishop, Les Murray and others are explored for what they tell us about changing attitudes to landscape, to place, and what Bate calls, in a deliberate ecological metaphor, the "complex and delicate web" that holds together culture and environment...[this book] is the best of things, a book which will help its readers to think new thoughts--thoughts about poetry, about places, and about themselves.
Providence Journal - Tom D'evelyn
[Bate] establishes the reality of the ecological theme in English poetry. Building on a broad literature in philosophy and biology as well as literary studies, Bate defines ecological poetry as that which 'sees into the life of things' (Wordsworth) but also respects the integrity of the physical world...This book has a powerful impact...[Bates's] moral concerns, deeply held and deeply considered, never blur the sharp edges of literary or natural fact. His readings are compelling rediscoveries of poems we thought we knew already...The Song of the Earth fairly hums with intelligence and passion. It is itself a demonstration of the interplay between literature and nature that it celebrates. It could change your life.
The Wordsworth Circle - Mark Lussier
Jonathan Bate's The Song of the Earth provides a visionary agenda for all subsequent ecocritical writing. Bate has broadened the intellectual and critical foundation of his earlier ecocritical work…When Bate masters historical evidence and insightful analyses of discrete Romantic writing, as he does in Major Weather, he achieves a broad authority that is captivating and seductive.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
An engaging, closely researched selection of poets whose mediating powers between humans and the natural world have helped restore our links to the earth.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674008182
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/8/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 0.73 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Bate is Professor of English Literature at the University of Warwick.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 Going, Going 1
2 The State of Nature 24
3 A Voice for Ariel 68
4 Major Weather 94
5 The Picturesque Environment 119
6 Nests, Shells, Landmarks 153
7 Poets, Apes and Other Animals 176
8 The Place of Poetry 205
9 What are Poets For? 243
Notes 285
Suggestions for Further Reading 317
Acknowledgements 321
Index 323
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