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216 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 >discursivity,= all ethical, open representations of it must be self-consciously deconstructing. Accordingly, Hutchings finds everywhere in Blake a >predeconstructive double vision= when it comes to representations of nature. Much of this is very subtle, and it is especially interesting when it points to deep ambiguity in Blake=s contemporaries (such as Newton, for instance), who are also shown to be open to both material and spiritual conceptions of the universe. Hutchings persuasively argues as well how Blake is committed to the doubleness of anthropomorphism, a humanization of the natural world that simultaneously reveals the inherent falseness of this process and incorporates nature into a system of ethical regard. Imagining Nature is certainly an important contribution to Romantic studies, offering highly nuanced and informed readings of difficult poems. And it offers great insight into the problems of representing nature. Yet this work seems to push eco-criticism into a realm of nearly pure theory, in which nature is always-already discourse and symbol. What, after all, do literature or criticism have to offer our understanding of the natural world if we begin with the assumption, as Hutchings clearly does, that in observing animals, trees, or clouds, it is >virtually impossible ... to catch even a fleeting glimpse of something Aother@ than ourselves=? Hutchings=s version of Blake seems to have almost nothing to say about actually being in nature, of perceiving it and actually knowing something about it; there seems no possibility for what Lawrence Buell in The Environmental Imagination describes as the desire to produce >thick description of the external world,= which Wordsworth and Shelley, for instance, at least occasionally reveal. Even violence and destruction are here only >discursive practices,= and Hutchings is ever cautious about the myriad ways in which discourses of nature serve the purposes of governmental power. It should be possible to present Blake as a poet more interested in the physical, even while stressing his overwhelming commitment to the symbolic, with nature not as a >blank,= as Hutchings repeatedly says, but as real and infinitely intricate. Sexuality and the body, our most immediate connections to nature and important themes in Blake, are given scant attention, though the concept of gender is frequently explored. Perhaps most surprising is that Blake=s interest in London as an urban environment is overlooked. For it might be here that we find Blake offering the most radical insight for contemporary environmental thinking, since he suggests that the city and architecture are the means through which human consciousness becomes material discourse, and in which boundaries between the natural and the unnatural, the human and the non-human, are blurred. What is lovelier than the idea, expressed in Blake=s Jerusalem, that >Houses are Thoughts=? (ONNO OERLEMANS) Carol Shields. Jane Austen Penguin 2001. 185. $28.99 humanities 217 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Carol Shields, author of ten novels and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for her Stone Diaries in 1993, was an ideal writer to essay that most difficult of biographical subjects, Jane Austen. >Almost as soon as I began to read Jane Austen=s novels I became curious about her life,= she states. But Shields acknowledges the challenges to a biographer of Austen with characteristic honesty. The temptations to enliven >the opacity of her life,= a life that is often called >uneventful,= by speculations gleaned from her novels are great, but Shields manages to avoid them. She does, however, focus on the novels and their basis in the life: >This is, in the end, what matters: the novels themselves and not the day-to-day life of the author,= for, as George Gissing asserted, >the only good biographies are to be found in novels.= She addresses the Austen paradox: >What is known of Jane Austen=s life will never be enough to account for the greatness of her novels, but the point of literary biography is to throw light on a writer=s works, rather than combing the works to recreate the author. The two >accounts= B the life and the work B will always lack congruency and will...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 216-218
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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