The Language of Nature, the Nature of Language
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
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My immediate gratitude goes to Karen Ford of the English Department at the University of Oregon. She has given my writing more careful, rigorous attention than it has ever received before. Discussing poetry with her—in person and on the page—made this project an invigorating experience. For reading my...
Introduction: The Language of Nature, the Nature of Language
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My thirteen-month-old-son Rowan reaches out from my back to a towering hemlock and attempts to echo my latest denotation, “tree.” I am huffing up the basalt-riddled trail along Multnomah Creek to the top of Larch Mountain, pointing to the flora that I recognize and reciting the common names of wildflowers...
1. Wallace Stevens, Eco-Aesthete
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According to most of Wallace Stevens’s prominent critics, the poet is anything but ecologically oriented. Helen Vendler, for example, describes Stevens as expressing three “large manners” in his poetry: his “ecstatic idiom” of secular and earthy joys, a “despairing” mood that “anatomizes a stale and withered life,” and a...
2. Elizabeth Bishop’s Strange Reality
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Insofar as environmentally inclined poetry is based in fidelity to a real natural world, any ecocritical account of Elizabeth Bishop must surely start with her “famous eye”—her extremely close attention to the visual details of the natural world. This familiar characterization of Bishop alone makes her an obvious choice for a study in...
3. Richard Wilbur’s Natural Artifice
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Utter the phrase “contemporary ecopoet,” and most people will immediately think not of Richard Wilbur but of Gary Snyder, and for good reasons. Not only have critics categorized Snyder this way, but also Snyder refers to himself as an ecologist (as well as a student of anthropology, literature, Native American mythology...
4. Sylvia Plath’s Physical Words
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Despite the New Criticism’s warning against the “intentional fallacy,” poststructuralism’s assertion that the author is “dead,” and the New Historicism’s emphasis on ideology and historical context, much of the literary criticism devoted to Sylvia Plath has relied heavily on her biography. This is partly due to Plath’s unfortunate...
Conclusion: Organic Formalism and Contemporary Poetry
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The poems of Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wilbur, and Sylvia Plath clearly demonstrate the double nature of poetic form, which both restrains language from imposing itself on the natural world and reveals meaningful entanglements with that world. For all of these poets, the most meaningful contact with nature...
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About the Author, Back Cover
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Scott Knickerbocker is assistant professor of English and environmental studies at The College of Idaho. Originally from Ashland, Oregon, Knickerbocker earned a BA at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, and an MA and a PhD at the University of Oregon in Eugene. At The College of Idaho, Knickerbocker teaches courses...
Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2012