Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Eric R. Lindstrom
In “My First Acquaintance with Poets” Romantic essayist and critic William Hazlitt famously exclaims, “With what eyes these poets see nature!” This thesis examines the nature poetry of William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy, more specifically the divergent depictions of plant life in their landscapes of nature. The plant appears in Wordsworth as a vital and non-tragic being capable of causing effect upon the human observer and displaying a sense of independence, detached from a reliance on humans. In contrast, Hardy presents a melancholic and tragic nature. Where Wordsworth wrote of revisiting dancing daffodils and cheerful robins, Hardy depicted frozen greenhouses, and frail, gaunt birds with little interest in recollecting or returning. Situating a close reading of Wordsworth and Hardy in an overview of scholarship, three distinct areas and eras of criticism and scholarship are examined which each approach the topic of nature in reflection of their period. The early nature thinkers William Hazlitt and Edmund Burke; scholars writing during the mid to late 20th century including Joseph Warren Beach, Harvey Curtis Webster, Jonathan Bate, and James McKusick; and the recent scholarship from 2010 onward with the work of Theresa Kelley, Michael Marder, Emanuele Coccia, and Jane Bennett are read in relation to the plants of Wordsworth and Hardy. Present day study of nature depicts plants as creators of their own environment, beings capable of molding both themselves and the worlds they exist within. Prior scholarship leans towards anthropocentric thought, recognizing the potential in plants, but situating the concept of nature as lesser than the human. As the earliest scholars establish a definite relationship between humans and the natural world, it is the practice of weaving together the evolution of this thought that illustrates the vitality of the plant within the tradition of Romantic poetry and situates this thesis within the current conversation of non-human life. While Wordsworth and Hardy depict different realities of the natural world, they both carry on the tradition of nature poetry and place importance upon the continued study of the natural world.
Number of Pages
McDowell, Eleanor Gwyneth, "From Green Romanticism to Plant Thinking: Environmental Vitality in William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy's Nature" (2023). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1695.
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