Studies in Literature and Culture
Ecocriticism and Romantic Ecology: Gilbert White and John Clare
← 28 | 29 →Jacek Wiśniewski
In Romantic Ecology, Jonathan Bate’s excellent book on Wordsworth and the environmental tradition, the author reminds us that the notion of ecology is older than the term itself: it was coined in 1866 by the German zoologist and enthusiastic propagator of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Ernst Haeckel. The German scientist relied in his definition on terms borrowed from the science of economy, and also on Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Ecology is called “the economy of nature – the investigation of the total relations of the animal both to its inorganic and to its organic environment” (Bate 1991, 36). But if there is something we call “Romantic ecology,” then clearly ecology existed before it was named.
Ecocriticism, or “green” criticism, explores the relationship between us humans as a species, with our art and literature, and the natural environment. As such it is an offshoot of the science of ecology, even if it does not pretend to solve ecological problems, and is more focused on human interactions with nature. Ecology creates a model which stresses the wholeness of the living globe, and the intricate yet infinitely delicate balance of its interconnected working parts.
In the opening part of my paper I shall try to explain briefly what literary ecocriticism is, and what it attempts to achieve in the field of literary studies. Literary ecocriticism “seeks to evaluate texts and ideas in terms of their coherence and usefulness as responses to environmental crisis” (Kerridge 1998, 5). In the words...
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