Figuring Nature: Tropics of Romantic Environmentality.
Language is material in a radical sense: not the medium through which thought communicates, but a multiplicity of relations and traces that enables what comes to experience itself as thought. --Tom Cohen and Claire Colebrook, Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols. (2) I remembered that contact zones, called ecotones, with their edge effects, are where assemblages of biological species form outside their comfort zones. --Donna Haraway, When Species Meet. (3) Ecological rhetoric tends to imagine nature as a closed system in which everything is ultimately recycled, like the Romantic idea of the aesthetic object as an organic whole. --Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature. (4)
IT IS A CRITICAL COMMONPLACE TO IDENTIFY THE BRITISH ROMANTIC period as a watershed moment for the development of modern ideas about the environment. Writers like William Wordsworth, Gilbert White, and John Clare have been praised for their painstaking attention to the minute, local details of the nonhuman environment, (5) and generally credited with founding the modern form of what Lawrence Buell calls " environmentality": the evolving consciousness of how one's surroundings condition existence. (6)
Environmentality evolves from what Buell calls "the environmental unconscious," denoting the difference between the subject's conscious understanding of relations between the environment and self, and the actual nature of that relationship. (7) Moving this into a linguistic register, we might use Roman Jakobson's notion of the linguistic agency of formal structures like grammar, syntax, tropes, modes, and genres to hypothesize a zone of "preconceived possibilities" within the environmental unconsciousness. (8) Defining this zone as the environmental imaginary demarks an epistemological horizon of preconceived rhetorical possibilities for figuring "Nature." (9) Eco-imaginaries are a dynamic interface between the cultural and the physical, as Astrida Neimanis, Cecilia Asberg, and Johan Hedren, explain, performing "worlding practices" even as those practices feed new ways of naming the world. (10) Romantics expanded the environmental imaginary by innovating on the tropes that performed their ideas of nature, their environmentality. (11)
While eco-imaginaries can shift suddenly with an influx of new tropic practices, generally the dominant imaginary sustains its influence on the episteme. Ecocritics, who inherited the debate from the nineteenth century, divide on whether Romantic environmentality initiated the science of empirical ecology, or is Modernity's most entrenched mystification of nature. (12) The very fact that this debate has persisted so long makes clear that Romantic environmentality has not faded into the past, but rather, as Timothy Morton puts it, "still influences the ways in which the [contemporary] ecological imaginary works." (13) When we historicize our Romantic idea of nature, we find that it is actually a history of their tropes of nature, (14) which, having saturated our episteme--the Anthropocene--in its dawn, are now, in its "twilight," becoming visible. (15)
If the place of Modernity's ecological thought is the Romantic rhetoric of nature, then "an epistemological critique of tropes," (16) within an eco-materialist understanding of language, is necessary for elucidating those Romantic ideas of nature. (17) For ecomaterialists, "nature is co-extensive with language": what we call the environment is a network of effects caused by all of the entities in that network, including semiotic systems. (18) A poetic language that instantiates a particular idea of nature does so because it affects the idea of nature, projecting readers mentally, emotionally, and sensually into that very environment. Angus Fletcher speculates that poems actually become a kind of surrounding environment by their very attempt to describe the surrounding environment. (19)
Fletcher's radical interchangeability between poems and nature remains controversial. Susanna Lidstrom and Greg Garrard caution that "poems do not, after all, abide by any special ecological laws... [and] are better described as phylogenetic than ecological--they are family matters, not the outcome of adaptive processes." (20) Yet the point of an epistemological critique of tropes is to call attention to the way "family matters" is itself a trope, and structures a contingent series of adaptive processes, in this case poetic language, and naming its relation to "the world." The contributors to Re-Imagining Nature posit that "life itself [is] an information exchange... energy-information, [a] paradigm shift [that] challenges nineteenth-century sociobiological models." (21) So too, David Abram asserts that "it is first the sensuous, perceptual world that is relational and weblike in character, and hence that the organic, interconnected structure of any language is an extension or echo of the deeply interconnected matrix of sensorial reality itself... the whole of the sensuous world... provides the deep structure of language. (22)
Donna Haraway explains that "figures are not representations or didactic illustrations, but rather material-semiotic nodes or knots in which diverse bodies and meanings coshape one another. For me, figures have always been where the biological and literary or artistic come together with all the force of lived reality." (23) Haraway treats figures of speech, or tropes, as contact zones between biology and language, the place where ideas are materialized in images of the biosphere. (24) Using the technical definition from ecology, Haraway calls these contact zones "ecotones," defined as biosemiotic hotspots existing on the boundaries between different, more homogeneous ecosystems, such as biology and human language, reality and representation. (25) Tropes exist in this ecotone where intense synergies evolve exceptional diversity, apposition, and hybridity, effecting and affecting whatever human-nature relation formed them. Haraway pays less attention to whether that trope erases or celebrates its conflictual transaction, but this question should be raised by ecocritics to address the debate about Romantic environmentality.
When nature writers fashion images of the environment, they enable specific and novel ways of feeling, perceiving, and being in that environment. Tropes of nature give ontological grounding to social and psychological modes, not simply as ideological cloaks of false consciousness, but as experienced realities that author agency. Tropes that erase their figuration of nature obfuscate their stochastic, provisional origins in the negotiations between human and biological need, functioning, and desire, much as Ron Broglio notes that technology and "Cartesian perspectivalism" render themselves invisible even as they turn the "thingliness of nature" into cultural objects. (26) Such nature tropes appear intuitive, which alone may not cause concern--they are just one more idea of nature that can be tested or analyzed. However, when nature tropes are used to critique or advocate for a particular human system on the basis of its "naturalness," the trope reifies the political claim. Observing that, in the Western tradition, no one has ever "appealed to nature except to teach a political lesson," Bruno Latour asserts that "there has never been any other politics than the politics of nature, and there has never been any other nature than the nature of politics" (emphases in original). (27) Pursuing this logic to Timothy Morton's conclusion, we can trace a link between different figures of the environment and types of politics: homeostatic, teleological, hierarchical, and harmonic ideas of nature align with authoritarian processes, while dynamic, evolutionary, symbiotic and polyphonic ideas of nature fit more democratic processes. (28) Thus, the rhetorical figuration of nature can legitimate authoritarian or egalitarian relationships which in turn justify the institution of those relationships in a political order.
For example, Stacy Alaimo's critique of Cartesian mind-body discourse shows how "anthropocentric projects of mastery" build a rhetoric which figures human existence as superior to and apart from the transcorporeal environmental network. By contrast, when the "human body [is reconfigured as] radically open to its surroundings... knowers are repositioned as self-consciously part of nature." (29) In a similar vein, Felix Guattari contrasts "ecosophy" with "integrated world capitalism," two radically different types of discursive production: one performing a liberating, open, egalitarian reality, the other performing a hierarchical, closed, dominating reality. (30) Morton, Alaimo, and Guattari all emphasize the fact that lived reality--in terms of political, economic, and social experience--is a discursive construction, or poesis. A rhetoric of the environment is experienced, epistemologically, as the environment, a refinement of Abram's description of how written language emerges from but eventually replaces the sensual, perceptual world. (31)
In this essay, I propose that the dominant tropes in key Romantic nature poems perform the idea of nature that the poem is supposed to represent. While all of these poems, following Jon Anderson, can be classed as "eco-sophical" as opposed to "technocratic," what will become evident in my discussion is the competition between the dominant Romantic eco-imaginary and Byron's alternative imaginary. (32) Thus, when Wordsworth or Coleridge use rhetorical devices that contain, close, divide, bind, and hierarchize, their poems perform a teleological, harmonious, organic, closed and hierarchical nature. (33) When Byron uses rhetorical devices that operate in open-ended, dynamic, spontaneous, protean, connecting, associating, heterogeneous ways, his poems perform a vibrantly material, evolving ecosystem of interdigitating ecotones. The organic holism of iconic Romantic nature poems offers a comforting, human-centered, but ultimately authoritarian, natural order, while Byron's open-ended, protean, epic romances, rarely recognized as nature poems, offer a radically different vision of nature and human society.
1. The Figure of Romantic Nature
Unlike most of the other British Romantic writers, Byron rarely makes anyone's list of nature poets, a neglect that jars with pronouncements by some critics about his deep interest in nature. One of Byron's best modern readers, Jerome McGann, concludes his 1976 Don Juan in Context with a statement that could have initiated a rich discussion of Byron's representation of human-nature relationships: "[For Byron] the subject (truth) of poetry [... is] the human world of men and women in their complex relationships with themselves, each other, and their environments, both natural and cultural." (34) However, instead of excavating Byronic environmentality, McGann focuses exclusively on Byron's representation of human-to-human relationships. In Byron's Nature, I contend that McGann's oversight is an example of how most Romantic criticism accepts the received view that Byron is an urbane cosmopolitan whose only attention to the environment occurred during his tumultuous first year of exile in 1816. (15) The epistemological frame constructed by Romantic organicism occludes Byron's figuration of nature, which is dynamic and non-teleological, antagonistic and synergistic, a self-adjusting system that sustains creative exchanges among entities linked in its networks. These exchanges drive the system's metabolism toward the development of additional, semi-autonomous, hybrid systems, among which include human societies and cultures.
In contrast, the pastoral organicism of more prominent British Romantic nature poets emphasizes nature's balanced, harmonious economy and Malthusian ideas of homeostasis. As John Parham, following Donald Wooster and Tim Hayward, explains, the emphasis on rational order, hierarchy, and cooperative governance in nature mediates the old notion of a "Great Chain of Being" into an ecological model of climax ecology, which holds that harmonious, stable balance is the end result of all undisturbed natural orders. (16) Murray Bookchin argues that characterizing nature as a balanced, homeostatic hierarchy is a self-affirming projection of human hierarchies. (37) By anticipating a post-equilibrium model of spontaneous synergy across self-perpetuating actor-networks, Byron's nature offers a more collective human-nature organization for an ecological imaginary.
If we follow Angus Fletcher's argument that the chief action of the environment poem is to establish boundaries or horizons, we can distinguish those Romantic poems that shrink horizons or harden boundaries from Byron's poetry that increase horizons and display the permeability of boundaries. (38) Indeed, Byron's critique of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey specifically identifies narrow horizons as the problem with the Romantic idea of nature and the nature of their politics:
You, Gentlemen! by dint of long seclusion From better company have kept your own At Keswick, and through still continued fusion Of one another's minds at last have grown To deem as a most logical conclusion That Poesy has wreaths for you alone; There is a narrowness in such a notion Which makes me wish you'd change your lakes for ocean. (Don Juan, "Preface," 33-40) (39)
The kernel of truth in Byron's critique is his recognition that Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey sustain their organic visions of nature by circumscribing poetic horizons to the local ecology. This nature, as critics have long noted, displays "an idealist tendency" (4)" and the homeostasis of Cartesian perspectivalism. (41) However, as an expression of idealist nature, it cannot also "foreshadow the prevailing contemporary understanding of how ecosystems work," (42) since ecosystems are understood to work very differently from the idealist, organicist conception.
On the other hand, Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage broadens horizons, creating an idea of an interconnected, permeable Europe, as Paul Stock has shown. (43) The concluding stanzas map the entire Mediterranean watershed as a transcontinental bioregion, establishing cultural and individual identity through its water cycle, shipping routes, historical migrations, and other exchanges across boundaries. Don Juan wanders across political, economic, social and historical boundaries from south-western Europe to the Levant, Russia and England, a vision that Jerome McGann posits, "transforms Don Juan into a book of the European world." (44) In contrast to the localist, climax eco-imaginaries of Wordsworth and Coleridge, Byron's works embody a nascent form of what Ursula Heise defines as a "planetary 'imagined community' of both human and nonhuman." (45)
One of the tropic backbones of Byron's ecocosmopolitanism is an image of the ocean as a post-equilibrium ecosystem. (46) While Wordsworth identifies safety and shelter as motives for returning to Grasmere and declaims, "Embrace me, then, ye Hills, and close me in" (Home at Grasmere, 129), (47) Byron writes "And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy / Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be / Borne, like thy bubbles, onward" (Childe Harold 4:1648-50). Enclosure, safety, guardianship, order, and control figure in Wordsworth's idealist nature, and they require narrow, rigid horizons, and an intimate, localist focus. Byron's post-equilibrium, ecotonic ecology, by contrast, celebrates contest, temporality, uncertainty, and continually expansive motion.
Jonathan Bate and James McKusick, among many, explain that Wordsworth's idea of small, organically evolved communities is part of his localist, grassroots defense of the commons against encroachments coming from both nationalist and imperialist versions of the techno-rational commodification of nature. (48) Aspects of Wordsworth's watershed bioregionalism run through Heidegger's concept of dwelling, Deep Ecology, conservationism, and "back to the land" movements like permaculture and Transition Towns. (49) In much conservationist and indigenous rhetoric, an appeal to local knowledge of natural systems is central to the defense of place. (50) Then and now, Romantic ideas of organic nature have offered embattled communities a radically progressive and powerful rhetoric of human-nature interdependence, complicating what could seem a simple equation between Romantic organicism and authoritarian political systems, an issue Ursula Heise has analyzed in the specific context of German history. (51)
One way out of the dead-end debate about the politics of Wordsworthian-Coleridgean nature versus Byronic nature is Lidstrom and Gerrard's distinction between "ecophenomenological poetry," which focuses on descriptions and appreciation of non-human nature with roots in Romantic and deep ecology traditions, aiming to heighten individual readers' awareness of their natural surroundings, and "environmental poetry," which tries to grapple with the changing relationships between human societies and natural environments." (52) Ecophenomenological poems are well suited to literary nativism and "what Timothy Clark calls a 'bioregional project of 'reinhabitation,'" inspiring localist becoming-in-place, indisputably a worthy project. (53) In his ecophenomenological mode, Wordsworth permits himself to be open and vulnerable to spontaneous human-nature relations that disrupt constructivist mastery, as Broglio illustrates. (54) Environmental poems, by contrast, theorize the global interconnectedness between cultures and biologies, inspiring ecocosmopolitanism. (55)
Nonetheless, as Ursula Heise has pointed out, environmentalism that privileges localism to the exclusion of global connections becomes a kind of NIMBY protectionism that simply "repartitions the sensible" along different hierarchies: "old style conservation... [can perpetuate] colonial patterns of goernance, contributing to poverty, and creating conservation refuges." (56) Timothy Clark suggests that some of the blindness in mainstream environmentalism has to do with the way powerful interests draw boundaries around a privileged, local place while the threat or problem is externalized to distant, more vulnerable places. The "logic of disavowed externality that largely defines the so called 'developed world,' " (57) is explicit in Romantic poems that draw boundaries around a privileged place while displacing threats, and may simply be a tendency of the ecophenomenological poem. The obvious example is Wordsworth's defense of organic community in the Lake District against exploitative outside forces, which presumably requires building an empire of colonies in order to preserve its homeostasis (The Excursion, 9:293-416). The problem, both epistemologically and politically, is when organicist, local ideas of nature deny their connections to regional and global ecosystems, as if exploitation of natural systems elsewhere will not affect natural systems everywhere.
The issue I want to explore in this paper is whether it is plausible to say that Wordsworth and Coleridge's tropes are the imaginative agents of a vision that sees the Lake District as a separate, homeostatic, closed system, a condition that Jerome McGann describes as becoming "less imaginative, more self-absorbed, Lake-locked." (58) The agent of the imagination, metaphor, projects the self into the other, becoming "Lake-locked" in a tautological exchange of self for world. The trope that best figures this tautological exchange is the chiasmus, the "metaphor of metaphors" as Paul de Man defines it, which establishes equivalencies between the two poles around which its exchanges rotate: "if all language is about language, then the paradigmatic linguistic model is that of an entity that confronts itself." (59) Some of the most iconic Romantic nature lyrics, among them "Tintem Abbey," "Frost at Midnight," "Dejection: an Ode," and Keats's Great Odes overuse chiastic tropes to figure a self that confronts itself in its polar opposite, Nature.
In contrast, Byron's tropes broaden and unsettle boundaries, as in the allegories in Don Juan, Canto 10:641-64, that condense industrialized London's global interconnections, or the palimpsests in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage 4 that capture the Coliseum's historical continuity. Not only is he drawn to self-generative, biodiverse ecologies (from antediluvian Mount Ararat in Heaven and Earth to the protean ocean at the end of Childe Harold 4), his tropes perform the ecotonic action of those ecologies in juxtaposition, hybridization, division, and integration. He represents cities as ecological and cultural hotspots existing at the intersection of multiple semi-autonomous systems. In the opening stanzas of Childe Harold 4, Venice sits in the littoral ecotone of land and sea, from which it evolved its specific cultural ecosystem, and Byron's tropes instantiate its ecotonic nature by figuring human-nature systems as continually accretive, symbiotic, agonistic, and apposite. Byron's nature is thus open and evolving rather than closed and harmonious, and his poetics perform the ecotonic idea of nature represented in the poetry. (60) In the next two sections, I'll elaborate Coleridge and Byron's very different tropic natures.
2. Coleridge and the Figure of Organic Nature
Because of his influence on Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley, Coleridge has an outsized importance on Romanticism's emergent idea of nature. (61) James McKusick argues that Coleridge was "perhaps the single most important figure in the development of a full fledged ecological consciousness," who derived his ideas from the scientific theory that nature is a holistic economy made up of organisms that are "autonomous, cyclical, and self-regulating," which he tested by empirical observation. (62) Additionally, Coleridge explicitly connected language to nature, writing in the Biographia Literaria that the authentic poem--no less than the authentic poet--is an autonomous, self-regulating organism that functions within a holistic economy. (63) Raimonda Modiano argues that Coleridge was a "devoted exponent" of the picturesque because "an essential presupposition... was that nature was inherently unified, despite its dazzling variety." (64) These ideas are displayed in "The Aeolian Harp," when Coleridge poses the question of whether
all of animated nature Be but organic harps diversely framed That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze At once the Soul of each, and God of All?" (44-48) (65)
With "Frost at Midnight" and "Dejection: An Ode," the "Aeolian Harp" founds its idea of nature on the chiastic trope in order to figure nature as a closed, homeostatic, hierarchical economy between polar opposites. That trope, traversing a tautological economy, governs the preconceived possibilities that "tremble into conscious thought" about the environment. As the image moves from "all of animated nature" to "one intellectual breeze," it passes from one polar opposite to another: from plural to singular and from passive thing to active force. The final line provides the necessary reversal, from "Soul of each," singular, to "God of All," plural, creating the chiastic equation, plural-singular: singular-plural. The soul of each is a mirror twin of the unified totality, replicating the organicist idea of nature where the parts replicate the whole, and differences in scale do not matter.
This penultimate passage collapses the metonymies Coleridge initially observed in his environment into metaphors, a process Timothy Morton would identify as a key characteristic of ecomimetic nature writing. (66) The opening setting positions "pensive Sara" reclining on his arm, and the two of them sitting beside their cottage, against which grows jasmine and myrtle, the first part in a series of metonymies that extends through line twenty-five, after which Coleridge collapses these metonymies into his metaphor of the "One Life." Not coincidentally, the chiasmus, "A light in sound, a sound-like power in light," manages the metaphoric transformation of the metonymic setting from its open web of interconnected, interacting entities into a closed, tautological hall of mirrors reflecting the self. As Modiano notes, the syntax is "so carefully constructed as to make it difficult to determine which is the originating voice of the harmonious union of life and which the echo, thus leaving open the possibility that the self, the 'Live within,' might be that voice." (67) The image of nature as a perfect, homeostatic equilibrium is achieved by metaphoric substitution of all in all--until Sara dispels Samuel's pantheist organicism with her Christian order of the Cosmos.
In "Frost at Midnight," Sara is safely tucked in bed, so Samuel has no check on his musings about the order of nature. From first to last, the poem performs Romantic organicism by channeling adjacent things into its tautological, homeostatic economies. As most readers have noticed, the poem is alive to the idea of echoes and mirrors providing order to the world Coleridge describes, culminating in the penultimate stanza as Coleridge projects his vision for his son's life:
so shalt thou see and hear The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible Of that eternal language, which thy God Utters, who from eternity doth teach Himself in all, and all things in himself. (58-62)
The chiasmus brings together all things, forces, and events from Coleridge's past, present, and future into the singularity of God. Everything is an echo or mirror of everything else, because everything is an echo or mirror of God. Nature speaks an eternal language uttered by God, seen and heard by those who can see and hear, namely Coleridge and his son. That language is necessarily chiastic in structure and unifying in function, mediating through a closed economy of tautological mirroring all of animate nature, diversely framed, in the singular creating Spirit.
The last stanza broadcasts Nature unified in God into the pluralized nature diversified in seasonal and individual differences. Yet all seasons will be equally sweet because the "secret ministry of frost" is identical to summer's warmth: "eve-drops" are no different from "silent icicles / Quietly shining to the quiet Moon"--one of literature's loveliest lullabies to a world made whole by chiastic imposition.
"Dejection: An Ode" significantly amplifies Coleridge's organicist vision of nature by increasing the number of chiastic tropes and replacing God with the poet as the receiving-giving force on the other end of the equation with nature. As in the "Aeolian Harp," metonymically associated natural things are metaphorically conflated into "harps diversely framed": from the "barred clouds" to the "Bare crag, or mountain tarn, or blasted tree," and Coleridge himself, longing for a swelling gust to awaken his dormant soul. At the same time, Coleridge explicitly identifies himself with the creating Wind: "This beautiful and beauty-making power" that "from the soul itself must issue forth... Which wedding Nature to us gives in dower / A new Earth and new Heaven" (63, 53, 68-69). The Wind is both external and an internal "intellectual breeze." Consequently, the diversely creative force of Nature coalesces into a metaphor for the human creative force, Joy, which, given exclusively to the pure, issues from the human soul: "a sweet and potent voice, of its own birth, / Of all sweet sounds the life and element"; it is both "Life and Life's effluence, cloud at once and shower" (57-58, 66). These densely packed images create a closed, self-generating economy between the two poles of self and other, subject and object, agent and thing. Nature, an "inanimate cold world," lives only when the joy of the soul flows out into a union with it, much the way that the Wind flows across the strings of the lute to create meaningful sounds. The economies of exchange balance in a positive feedback loop as long as the Other mirrors the self. This self-absorbed, "Lake-locked" economy climaxes in Coleridge's aestheticization of life:
We in ourselves rejoice! And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight, All melodies the echoes of that voice, All colours a suffusion from that light. (72-75)
Because our joyful soul has projected its "light," "glory," and "fair luminous cloud" on the Earth, the Earth's charming colors and melodies affirm our creating agency. By setting up a closed, homeostatic economy of joy rotating between the two poles of soul and world, Coleridge collapses all distinctions into a totalizing unity, the aesthetic and epistemological goal for both Coleridge's and Wordsworth's figurations of nature, as Modiano argues. (68)
Coleridge's extensive use of the chiasmus in his poems figures the confrontation between man and nature as a monologic echo effect: man becomes nature; nature becomes man. The lines "Oh Lady! We receive but what we give / And in our life alone does Nature live" figures the most extreme version of this holistic economy ("Dejection," 47-48). In this chiastic exchange, "we" receive life from nature by giving life to nature, conserving the self even if one's affliction "suspends what Nature gave at birth." Likewise, his final prayer for Sara Hutchinson: "To her may all things live, from pole to pole, / Their life the eddying of her living soul!" (135-36) establishes "her" and "living things" as opposing poles that reflect each other. The specularity of the relationship is a tautology sustained by the soul that crosses between her and things.
And yet, this chiasmus, like the other chiasmi in the poem, "can only come into being as the result of a void, of a lack that allows for the rotating motion of the polarities." (69) That lack is Coleridge's own dejection, his loss of joy and imagination, wantonly thrown away when he was young (according to the poem's self-fashioning). This empty void is described in another, less obvious chiasmus as "A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear, / A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief" (21-22). While the first half names a sense-deprived grief, the second inverts the order to discover a lack of intellectual and emotional content in "grief"; thus, internal dissociation echoes and mirrors external dissociation between sensory perception and emotion: "I see, not feel, how beautiful they are" (38). From this state of dissociative "viper thoughts," which find "no natural outlet, no relief, / In word, or sigh or tear," he turns through pure force of will to "listen to the wind" (23-24, 96), which expresses the grief he cannot. While it may seem as though the wind is thereby elevated to the status of agent, within the tautological economies of the chiasmus, it is still subordinate to Coleridge, merely the eddying of his living soul, given out to the natural world and now returning to him. (70) Thus, the seeming dialectical egalitarianism of a chiastic organicism actually sustains a binary, a hierarchical idea of nature's order, where the apparent "life" of res Extensa, is simply the "eddying of [our] living soul[s]." To be "Lake-locked" in this kind of Idealist, Romantic nature is to enclose oneself in an anthropocentric validation of human sovereignty over the "inanimate cold world" of things, though, perhaps, with kinder, gentler implications for stewardship and healing rather than exploitation, at least in one's own backyard. This is the kinder, redemptive vision that McKusick elucidates in his reading of "The Nightingale" and "This Lime Tree Bower, My Prison." (71)
3. Byron and the Figures of the Ecotone
In contrast to Romantic organicism's closed, homeostatic model, Byron's nature is in constant motion, dialogic and agonistic, violating arbitrary boundaries that humans try to establish:
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean--roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin--his control Stops with the shore. (Childe Harold 4:1603-1606)
The shore is where the creative-destructive forces of Ocean meet the controlling-ordering forces of Man. In the littoral ecotone, where shore meets sea, Byron locates the primary processes of human-nature interaction:
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee [Ocean]-- Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they? Thy waters washed them power while they were free, And many a tyrant since... even from out the slime The monsters of the deep are made. (Childe Harold 4:1630-47)
When human organizations are dedicated to freedom--defined here as the same kind of synergistic association and exchange characterized in ecotones--the result is diverse, self-perpetuating growth. (72) The stanza tropes a generative process of spontaneous evolution that aligns "monsters of the deep" emerging from oceanic slime with great civilizations rising from ocean waters, as Darwin so brilliantly conceived thirty-five years later. Parallelism focuses on the littoral ecotone as a synecdoche for the created world which is the conjoint re/creation by and of all interrelated beings, not a static background for human drama. The figure implies that, in order to develop the multiple networks of reciprocity for ensuring the potential, diversity, scale, and resilience of generative exchanges, this idea of nature requires free association across permeable borders. Byron's analysis of empire proves that when borders are closed--repartitioning the sensible into nations, social hierarchies, and ontological orders--then the opportunity for creative exchange dies away, as does the human order dependent on it.
Ecotones, existing in the margins between dominant ecosystems, are where the action is, as Haraway puts it: it is where creative hybridity goes into evolutionary overdrive, and both biological and cultural " 'subjects are constituted in and by their relations with each other.'" (73) Yet, unlike the harmonious unity figured in organicism, the process of interspecies becoming in ecotones, "at the dialogical edge between the self and the otherness of the world," is not "one great happy harmonious system... but rather the agonistic dialogical intermingling of their nonidentities." Thriving in an ecotone depends on cooperation and reciprocity, a respect for the inter-dependencies and vulnerabilities by which the self is made or unmade. As Raymond Coles eloquently puts it, ecotones image "the wellspring of what intelligence, freedom, and fertility [humans] can live and impart to the living earth around us from our bizarre position of awesome potential power." (74)
A recognition of his own agonistic, dialogical "becoming-with" the world's difference, and his "bizarre position of awesome potential power," manifests in his relations with the ocean: "For I was as it were a child of thee, / And trusted to thy billows far and near, / And laid my hand upon thy mane--as I do here" (Childc Harold 4: 1654-66). Likening the ocean to a horse sustains its otherness in a tenuous tension of negotiated, interspecies partnership. The trope establishes "risk in play" as the basis of relationship, suggesting openness to the possibilities offered by reciprocity with the non-identifiable other. (75)
These ecological relations begin in the figurative relations that the stanza's tropes perform. These tropes are, as Anthony Howe argued, the material form of Byron's thought. In the remainder of this section, I want to extend his insight, showing how Byron's tropes materialize his environmentality. (76)
Critical studies of Don Juan have long equated the poetic form with the constantly evolving world represented by the rhetoric. Jerome McGann notes that the chief characteristic of the poem is its constantly evolving, non-teleological "formless" form: "Don Juan, in other words, is almost a contradiction in terms: an epic on no plan... radically, aggressively episodic and meandering." Its narrative structure intentionally violates Coleridge's Aristotelian idea that narratives "convert a series into a whole." While Coleridge valorizes the imagination for manufacturing an organic, coherent whole, Byron focuses on the endless, additive chaos of experience. McGann and others point out that Byron's conversational, rambling style refuses to totalize its metonymic networks through metaphor: "in Don Juan, Byron makes a great virtue of not comprehending the world in a unified, integrative, or closed system." (77)
It is vital to note that Byron's tropes work within the ironic mode, in stark contrast to Wordsworth and Coleridge, which functions to reverse or untie the tropic creation. Anne Mellor observes that irony is the mode that sustains Don Juan's agonistic dialogue between epic and satire, plot and digression, romance and realism. In her words, irony "tropes the form." (78) Troping the form translates received language and styles into new systems of representation, best seen in Byron's exploration of the synergistic interfaces between opposing realms of language, rhetoric, and form; or as Jerome Christensen puts it, placing things into close contact through parallelism, juxtaposition, and apposition. These create knots of meaningful association that break down accepted conventions of order and coherence. (79) The point is not to resolve contradictions through a unifying process, but, as W. H. Auden argues, to accept contradiction as inherently procreative. (80)
Functioning in an ecological imaginary, Byron's grammar, syntax, and tropes perform a conscious environment. Metonymy, palimpsest, reversals, apposition and other similar tropes instantiate a relational ontology and perform as an adaptive, evolving ecology. Ironic unmaking distinguishes Byron's ecotonic tropes from Wordsworth and Coleridge's organicist tropes, since all three use broad tropic palates. The drive toward metaphoric harmony and, in its extreme form, chiastic tautology, is the end of Wordsworth and Coleridge's nature poetry: a marriage between man and nature, as Wordsworth chiastically envisioned it in the "Prologue" to The Excursion, uniting two individuals in one body. In the harmonious world defined by the strict boundaries of the Lake District ecosystem, nature does not betray the heart that loves her; man is intellectual master and source of the creative energies that make the dead world live. In Byron's more contestatory ecotonic world, humans risk a playful trust in fellow, co-creating creatures because they must, but also because being led by spontaneous mutualism to ever new entanglements is an ecstatic sublime. The continually evolving entanglements of Byron's tropic creation replicate the procreative action within the ecotone, leading in both cases to explosive diversity, the very antithesis of a "steady state" climax ecology imaged by chiastic tropes.
One of the best examples of Byron's ecotonic poetics is his satiric excavation of Idealism in Canto 11 of Don Juan:
When Bishop Berkeley said 'there was no matter', And proved it--'twas no matter what he said: They say his system 'tis in vain to batter, Too subtle for the airiest human head; And yet who can believe it! I would shatter Gladly all matters, down to stone or lead, Or adamant, to find the World a spirit, And wear my head, denying that I wear it. (1-8)
As Emily Bernhard-Jackson has shown, the puns in this stanza perform a reductio ad absurdum of idealism's strict divisions between body and mind, matter and spirit. (81) Troping Berkeley's careful separation of life or vitality from the rest of creation in ironic puns on "matter," "airiest human head," and "wear my head" indicates that idealist theory requires a denial of both common sense and empirical reality. To prove this point, Byron releases too many meanings into this passage to parse easily; the poetry explodes logical unities with plurality.
This tactic is part of a general strategy of ironic apposition between the physical and the metaphysical, mind and matter, nature and culture, such as when seasickness disrupts Don Juan's love-sickness at the beginning of Canto 2; or hunger ravages moral taboo on the lifeboat; or here, where indigestion perplexes idealism's soarings:
What a sublime discovery 'twas to make the Universe universal Egotism! That all's ideal--all ourselves: I'll stake the World (be it what you will) that that's no Schism... [But along] comes Indigestion, (Not the most 'dainty Ariel') and perplexes Our soarings with another sort of question: And that which after all my spirit vexes, Is, that I can find no spot where man can rest eye on, Without confusion of the sorts and sexes, Of being, stars, and this unriddled wonder, The World, which at the worst's a sort of glorious blunder-- (Don Juan 11:9-12, 17-24)
The stanzas show that the body, rather than being an instrument serving the mind's needs, is the real power shaping the mind's questioning. (82) As body and mind are interwoven, so too is the material world and the perceiving mind. Exemplifying Beaty's theory of ironic innuendo, the stanzas dramatize a fuller reality in the body's unstated question: what has the mind eliminated to imagine its universal sovereignty? (83) The body of course, but specifically indigestion: the semi-autonomous process that transubstantiates food matter into vitality and excretes byproducts. Elimination has been eliminated from idealism's soarings because the body's metabolism is impossible to square with the Idealist principle that "life is radically different from matter." (84) Digestion tropes the vital materiality of existence, figuring the body's constant interchange with the co-creative environment. As Alaimo argues, the closed, ideal world of the Cartesian automaton is simply impossible in view of the gastronomical relations between earth, mind, and stomach, another important ecotone in the biocultural environment. (85)
Crucially for an environmental poetry, the specific question that indigestion asks concerns belonging and place: "I find no spot where man can rest eye on" (Don Juan, 11:21). "Rest eye on" plays with the double meaning, "rest T on." Not only does this fold the meaning of the line back in on itself (I find no spot where man can rest his subjective identity on--man is an immaterial being and therefore has no place in the material world), the disharmony of the rhymes (indigestion-question-rest eye on) calls attention to the letters in the words and their phonetic sounds: "est-i-on." "Rest eye on" can only rhyme with the other two words if it is an "eye-rhyme," a serendipitous pun that performs its critique of the placelessness of the imperial mind. After all, the imagined reversal of an upset stomach questioning the mind occurs in fact when the materiality of language--sound and graphic marks--supplants the intellectual argument. Did he plan it? Or did the sounds emerge in his head as he searched for something to rhyme with "question," possibly while quaffing hock and soda water as indigestion protested another nightly carouse? Triumphant pleasure in the creative language use distracts from the argument and calls attention to the materiality of language itself, the signifier's agency in the signified's identity.
Jane Bennett identifies the "curious ability of inanimate things to animate, to act, to produce effects dramatic and subtle" as "Thingly Power." In part, she develops this idea from Bruno Latour's notion of the actant: "a source of action that can be either human or nonhuman." (86) The concept of actant broadens the notion of agency and also levels the hierarchy between agents and instruments, or mind and matter:
What I am calling impersonal affect or material vibrancy is not a spiritual supplement or "life force" added to the matter said to house it. Mine is not a vitalism in the traditional sense; I equate affect with materiality, rather than posit a separate force that can enter and animate a physical body. (87)
Particularly crucial to the case for Byron's ecological materiality is the way his image reveals "the activity of metabolization, whereby the outside and inside mingle and recombine... [and] the swarm of activity subsisting below and within formed bodies and recalcitrant things, a vitality obscured by our conceptual habit of dividing the world into inorganic matter and organic life." (88) As an actant in Byron's rhyme, exemplifying what Marilyn Strathern describes as "generative language," "Indigestion" becomes a co-creator of the brilliant wit. (89) As that wit breaks upon the reader, attention shifts from the level of ideas to the level of matter itself. Thus the form performs Byron's idea of a vitally material ecosystem by celebrating the metabolism of ecotones that idealists externalize from their desired economy of nature.
While examples of language as an actant in a constantly evolving network run throughout Don Juan and rise to the level of style, the clearest example is the famous stanza listing an emetic for Juan's ennui:
But here is one prescription out of many: 'Sodae-Sulphat. 3. vi. 3. s. Mannae optim. Aq. fervent. f.3. ifs.3ij. tinct. Sennae Haustus.' (And here the surgeon came and cupped him) 'R. Pulv. Com. gr. iii. Ipecacuanhae' (With more besides, if Juan had not stopped 'em.) Bolus Potassae Sulpheret. sumendus, Et Haustus ter in die capiendus.' (10:321-28)
The hard, material opacity of the stanza arrests normal reading by subverting the expected relation between signifiers and signifieds. Without an understanding of Latin, chemical compounds, and apothecary's abbreviations, the stanza is utterly impenetrable. Even with that knowledge, it would be difficult to read as poetry: the punctuation and abbreviations prohibit rhythmic flow. Yet it obeys the rhyme and meter of ottava rima and expresses Byron's stated intention: this is a formula for violently purging boring formulas of all kinds, whether exhaustingly repetitive ottava rima creations or exhaustingly repetitive procreative acts (the proximate cause of Juan's ennui). The stanza could as easily be said to translate pharmacology into poetry, as poetry into pharmacology, aligning the two apparently very different coded systems. Their coincidence provokes frustration, amazement, hilarity, but also, at some level, awareness that these codes are dynamic, self-determining, self-reproducing relational systems. Byron's agency in aligning these formulae is clearly part of the new meanings that are created, but the formulae also have agency in shaping and extending the associative networks that define what is possible for Byron to create, originating in the preconceived possibilities of his ecological imaginary. Perhaps what is purged in this emetic formula is an idealist, arrogant notion of sovereign human agency in language use. Byron's insistence on the materiality of language means that language is not simply a transparent container for a meaning, but rather that meaning is an effect of language use. In contrast, Coleridge apparently ignores the agenic effects of his chiastic tropes, even as those tropes produce his subjectivity as the master of a unified, holistic nature.
Understanding Don Juan's tropes as "material-semiotic actors" (90) gives new significance to Byron's reflections on the agency of writing in Canto 3:
But words are things, and a small drop of ink, Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. (3:793-95)
Linda Marshall argues that the passage illustrates Byron's concept of the vital materiality of language; if words are things, not just the signs of things, then "words in themselves can be active and efficient." (91) Written language operates exactly as Byron figures it: a written word has the physicality of a "small drop of ink" that falls "upon a thought" and produces a set of incalculable, open-ended effects. The concreteness of the image works well with the stanza relating the emetic formula. Because the emetic stanza is so opaque, the average reader thinks of its words as literal drops of ink (highly irritating, wasted ones). But those drops of ink have productive effects, whether as instructions to an apothecary for a compound that purges the body, or as the performance of vitally material language that purges a reader's idealist assumptions that language is purely instrumental. Unlike Coleridge, who insists on the God-like power to give life to a coldly beautiful world of things, Byron celebrates his "thingly power" in partnership with his vitally material world, playing on the margins of existing systems of meaning where it is possible to combine new associative links. His tropes hybridize metonymical linkages at the ecotonal intersection of existing semiotic assemblages, performing like an ecotone and laying the "preconceived possibilities" for a post-equilibrium ecological imaginary.
Byron's war in words with all who war with thought (9:185-88) consists of reminding his readers that language is not an instrument of thoughts, but a material agent that co-creates thinking with human actors. Like the formal structure of Creation itself, Byron's open-ended, agonistic, dialogical networked poems are "always becoming with--in a contact zone where the outcome, where who is in the world, is at stake." (92) Language used falsely to imagine that the world is "universal Egotism... all ourselves," ensures that the world belongs to "Thought's foes by far most rude / Tyrants and Sycophants" (9:187-88). By spilling some drops of ink that cause the network of associations to reopen, Byron recovers the possibility for remaking the world authentically, ecologically. Liberation discourse is a formula that cures by purging cant and egoism, metabolizing it into productive fertilizer for wit.
4. Tropics of Romantic Environmentality
While Byron's idea of nature has rarely been considered in the ecocritical revaluations of Romantic nature that emerged since the 1990s, his ecotonic poetics anticipates cultural ecology and post-equilibrium ecology. Placing Byron in the discourse of Romantic nature writing helps illustrate the broad spectrum of thought emerging at this watershed moment in the history of how humans have conceptualized their relation to nature. From a Heiddegarian praxis of dwelling in the local oikos to a bioregional theory of culture as an evolved outgrowth of unique ecological dynamics, the Romantic period was a robust arena for speculations about nature.
A formalist analysis of nature tropes, informed by post-structuralist and new materialist theories of language, provides an important lens for understanding how ideas of nature are figured and what the politics of those figurations may be. It is all too clear, no matter what age we examine, that the nature of politics is preconditioned by the politics of nature--by the dominant epistemology which says "this is natural, and to this we should conform our norms, institutions, and behaviors." Since Romantic tropes of nature continue to distort the way we respond to our many and complex ecological crises, rigorous formal scholarship "must be seen by the ecocritic as a moral and political necessity" that, in addition to direct action, will "begin to proliferate emblems that call our attention both to that richness of the wild being called earth and to our deepest and highest possibilities for living here." (93)
University of Western Australia
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(1.) I would like to acknowledge that this essay was conceived, written and revised on the traditional lands of the Whadjuk Noongar people. 1 pay respect to Elders past, present, and emerging.
(2.) Cohen, Colebrook, and J. Hillis Miller, Twilight of the Anthwpocene Idols (London: Open Humanities Press, 2016), 13.
(3.) Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 217.
(4.) Morton, Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 109.
(5.) Dewey Hall, Romantic Naturalists, Early Environmentalists; An Ecocritical Study, 1789-1913 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014); Scott Hess, William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship: The Roots of Environmentalism in Nineteenth Century Culture (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012); Ashton Nichols, Romantic Natural History: William Wordsworth, Charles Darwin, and Others (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004); Onno Oerlemans, Romanticism and the Materiality of Nature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004); James McKusick, Green Writing: Romanticism and Ecology (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000); and Jonathan Bate, Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition (New York: Routledge, 1991).
(6.) Buell, Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 18-27.
(7.) Buell, Writing for an Endangered World, 22-24.
(8.) Jakobson and Halle Morris, The Fundamentals of Language (The Hague: Mouton and Co. 1956), 53.
(9.) See Timothy Clark, "The Deconstructive Turn in Environmental Criticism," symploke 21, no. 1-2 (2013): 11.
(10.) See Neimanis, Asberg, and Hedren's amalgamation of this term in their "Four Problems, Four Directions for Environmental Humanities: Toward Critical Posthumanities for the Athropocene," Ethics and the Environment 20 (2015): 80-85.
(11.) Similarly, Ron Broglio demonstrates that new technologies for measuring and inscribing nature (including writing) increased the capacity for knowing nature in the Romantic period. See Technologies of the Picturesque: British Art, Poetry, and Instruments, 1750-1830 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2008), 15-28.
(12.) Karl Kroeber, Ecological Literary Criticism: Romantic Imagining and the Biology of Mind (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 18-21; and Kroeber, "Proto-Evolutionary Bards and Post-Ecological Critics," Keats-Shelley Journal (1999): 166. Critics who see Romantic ecology complicit in Modernity's advance include Hess, Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship, 3; and Raymond Williams, "Ideas of Nature," in Culture and Materialism: Selected Essays (New York: Verso, 2005), 73-85.
(13.) Morton, Ecology Without Nature, 1.
(14.) Angus Fletcher, A New Theory for American Poetry: Democracy, the Environment, and the Future of Imagination (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 36.
(15.) Cohen and Colebrook, Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols, 7-9.
(16.) Cohen and Colebrook, Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols, 14.
(17.) Greg Gerrard, Ecocriticism, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2012), 16.
(18.) Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann, "Material Ecocriticism: Materiality, Agency, and Models of Narrativity," Ecozone (2012): 78. They build their definition of the environment on physicist Karen Barad's theory that reality "is a symmetric entanglement of material and discursive processes" (77); see also Clark, "Deconstructive Turn," 12-19.
(19.) Fletcher, A New Theory for American Poetry, 122-28.
(20.) Lidstrom and Garrard, "'Images adequate to our predicament': Ecology, Environment, and Ecopoetics" Environmental Humanities 5 (2014): 42.
(21.) Alfred K. Siewers, "Introduction," Re-Imagining Nature: Environmental Humanities and Ecosemiotics. ed. Siewers (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2014), 7; see the full introduction for an elaboration of ecosemiotics.
(22.) Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (New York: Vintage, 1996), 84-85.
(23.) Haraway, When Species Meet, 4.
(24.) Likewise, Siewers refers to "the creative edge (or textual 'ecotone') of language and physicality" (46-47).
(25.) On the definition of "ecotone," see M. J. Attrill and S. D. Rundle, "Ecotone or Ecocline: Ecological Boundaries in Estuaries," Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 55 (2002): 929-30; for further discussion of the application of ecotones to environmental humanities, see my essay with co-author John Ryan, "Scholarly Ecotones in the Information Landscape," Landscapes: The Journal for the International Centre for Landscape and Language 7, no. 1 (2016): 1-16.
(26.) Broglio, Technologies of the Picturesque, 26, 74.
(27.) Latour, Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 28.
(28.) Morton, Ecology Without Nature, 2, 17. See also Latour, Politics of Nature, 53-62. Though Timothy Clark is sharply critical of this opposition, arguing that it reproduces dominant liberal humanist values of the academy ("Deconstructive Turn," 19-24).
(29.) Alaimo, Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 13, 17.
(30.) Guattari, The Three Ecologies, trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton (London: Continuum, 2000), 33-35.
(31.) Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, 181-260.
(32.) Anderson, "Retreat or Re-Connect: How Effective can Ecosophical Communities be in Transforming the Mainstream?" Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 99, no. 2 (2017): 192-93.
(33.) To be sure, Wordsworth and Coleridge do not always tend toward this organicist construction, as Geoffrey Hartman, Gary Harrison, Ron Broglio, and James McKusick demonstrate; however, there is general agreement that both poets tend toward organicism: see Broglio, Technologies of the Picturesque, 72-125.
(34.) McGann, Don Juan in Context (London: John Murray, 1976), 160.
(35.) McGann, "Chapter 1: Byron and Ecocriticism," in Byron's Nature: A Romantic Theory of Cultural Ecology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017); see also "Byron's Cultural Ecology," European Romantic Review 21, no. 2, (2010): 183-86. Several important exceptions prove the rule; see Christine Kenyon-Jones, Mark Lussier, Karl Kroeber (EER), Jonathan Bate (Song of the Earth), Timothy Morton ("Byron's Manfred"), and Colin Carman, and earlier work by Mario Lupak and Bernard Blackstone.
(36.) Parham, Green Man Hopkins: Poetry and the Victorian Ecological Imagination (New York: Rodopi, 2010), 16.
(37.) Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution oj Hierarchy, rev. ed. (Montreal; New York: Black Rose Books, 1991), 27-88.
(38.) Fletcher, A New Theory for American Poetry, 5-10, 127.
(39.) Lord Byron: The Major Works, ed. Jerome J. McGann (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). All references to Byron's works are from this edition and are cited in the text.
(40.) McKusick, Green Writing, 17.
(41.) Broglio, Technologies of the Picturesque, 72. See also Raimonda Modiano's discussion of Coleridge's and Wordsworth's tendencies toward idealism, in Coleridge and the Concept of Nature (London: Macmillan, 1985), 40.
(42.) McKusick, Green Writing, 17.
(43.) Stock, The Shelley-Byron Circle and the Idea of Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 1-11.
(44.) Jerome McGann, "Book of Byron," in Critical Essays on Lord Byron, ed. Robert F. Gleckner (New York: G. K. Hall and Co., 1991), 279.
(45.) Heise, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 61. See also Eric Strand, "Byron's Don Juan as a Global Allegory," SiR 43, no. 4 (2004): 503-536. James McKusick's first three chapters in Green Writing outline the Wordsworth-Coleridge idea of nature as harmonious, balanced, and local (3-76).
(46.) Lawrence Buell describes the ocean as "a common symbol for primordial reality," and "the closest thing on earth to a landscape of global scope" (Writing for an Endangered World, 199).
(47.) William Wordsworth, The Major Works, ed. Stephen Gill (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
(48.) See Bate, Song of the Earth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 224-26; and McKusick, Green Writing, 68-73.
(49.) See Rob Hopkins, The Transition Town Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience (Cambridge: Green Books, 2008), 133-45.
(50.) See Dewey Hall's reflections on "the politics of place" in his forthcoming "Introduction: The Matter of Place Consciousness," in Victorian Ecocriticism: The Politics of Place and Early Environmental Justice (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), np.
(51.) Heise shows how both left and right political groups have appropriated tropes from the Romantic eco-imagmary, most notoriously, the Nazi's "Blood and Soil" version of the tropes of Romantic organicism in "The Environmental Humanities and the Futures of the Human," New German Critique 128, no. 43 (2016): 22-23.
(52.) Lidstrom and Garrard, "Images adequate to our predicament," 37.
(53.) Clark quoted in Lidstrom and Garrard, "Images adequate to our predicament," 45.
(54.) Broglio, Technologies of the Picturesque, 74-78, 84-101.
(55.) Lidstrom and Gerrard, "Images adequate to our predicament," 45.
(56.) Heise, "The Environmental Humanities," 28-49, 25. See Jane Bennett's discussion of "repartitioning the sensible," Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 104-8.
(57.) Clark, "Towards a Deconstructive Environmental Criticism," Oxford Literary Review 30, no. 1 (2008): 62.
(58.) McGann, Don Juan in Context, 157.
(59.) de Man, Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979, 153.
(60.) While this description may seem like an affirmation of Byron's ecotonic poetics, it is worth pointing out that his impatience with the Wordsworth-Coleridge reinhabitation project of literary nativism is a liability typical, perhaps, of an ecocosmopolitan environmental poetics. Dismissing ecophenomenological poetics as too narrow to address the scale of human civilization's ecological problems ignores the collaborative potential of localist reinhabitation projects and cosmopolitan ecojustice projects.
(61.) Raimonda Modiano locates Coleridge's motive for developing his theory of nature in his complicated relationship with Wordsworth, in which he was often critical of Wordsworth's occasional shifts into bodily-phenomenological experience of nature (Coleridge and the Concept of Nature, 33-50).
(62.) McKusick, Green Writing, 28, 35-81.
(63.) Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Oxford Authors, ed. H. J. Jackson (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 319.
(64.) Modiano, Coleridge and the Concept of Nature, 20.
(65.) Citations of Coleridge's poetry are from The Oxford Authors, and will be identified in the text by poem title and line numbers.
(66.) Morton, Ecology Without Nature, 14-16.
(67.) Modiano, Coleridge and the Concept of Nature, 58.
(68.) Modiano, Coleridge and the Concept of Nature, 40.
(69.) de Man, Allegories of Reading, 49.
(70.) See Modiano's very different conclusion in Coleridge and the Concept of Nature, 60-66.
(71.) McKusick, Green Writing, 8-10.
(72.) See Murray Bookchin's description of freedom as the capacity of organisms to enjoy a high degree of spontaneity and self-determination in fulfilling their own ends (The Ecology of Freedom, 23-40).
(73.) Haraway, When Species Meet, 217, 216.
(74.) Coles, "Ecotones and Environmental Ethics: Adorno and Lopez," in In the Nature of Things: Language, Politics, and the Environment, ed. Jane Bennett and William Chaloupka (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 243, 246.
(75.) Haraway, When Species Meet, 244.
(76.) Howe, Byron and the Forms of Thought (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013), 6-9.
(77.) McGann, Don Juan in Context, 3, 6.
(78.) Mellor, English Romantic Irony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), 59; Lillian Furst makes a similar claim, that Don Juan's irony undoes even its own fiction-making, in Fictions of Romantic Irony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 93-96; see also Angus Fletcher's idea of irony in the environment poem (A New Theory for American Poetry, 147-48).
(79.) Christensen, Lord Byron's Strength: Romantic Writing and Commercial Society (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), xviii, 218. See also Lilian Furst's discussion of digression (Fictions of Romantic Irony, 101-14).
(80.) W. H. Auden, "Don Juan," In The Dyer's Hand, and Other Essays (London: Faber and Faber, 1962), 388. See also related analyses of rhyme and stanza form in Auden, 398-405; Lillian Furst, Fictions of Romantic Irony, 103-6; Jane Stabler, Byron, Poetics and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 150; Paul West, Byron and the Spoiler's Art (New York: Lumen, 1992), 46-47; and Frederick Beaty, Byron the Satirist (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1985), 16.
(81.) Bernhard-Jackson, The Development of Byron's Philosophy of Knowledge: Certainty in Uncertainty (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 176-85.
(82.) The stanza elaborates Murray Bookchin's assertion that idealism should be deconstructed by "physical anthropology of the mind" (The Ecology of Freedom, 104).
(83.) Beaty, Byron the Satirist, 134-36.
(84.) Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 86.
(85.) Alaimo, Bodily Natures, 12-16; see also Haraway, When Species Meet, 31.
(86.) Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 6; Latour, Politics of Nature, viii.
(87.) Latour, Politics of Nature, xiii.
(88.) Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 50.
(89.) Strathern, "What is Intellectual Property After?" in Actor Network Theory and After, ed. John Law and John Hassard (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 173.
(90.) Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 45
(91.) Marshall, "'Words are things': Byron and the Prophetic Efficacy of Language," Studies in English Literature 25, no. 4 (1985): 806.
(92.) Haraway, When Species Meet, 244.
(93.) Garrard, Ecocriticism, 16; Coles, "Ecotones and Environmental Ethics," 246.
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|Author:||Hubbell, J. Andrew|
|Publication:||Studies in Romanticism|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2018|
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