Construction of the Green Atlantic World
Mary Loeffelholz (1958-)
Stuart Peterfreund, Elizabeth M. Dillon
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. English Department.
ecocriticism, environmental criticism, Thoreau, Wordsworth
Wordsworth, William, 1770-1850--Criticism and interpretation, Henry David Thoreau, 1817 1862--Criticism and interpretation, Nature in literature--History--19th century
English Language and Literature
This project presents a historically informed, paired reading of William Wordsworth and Henry David Thoreau as they work within the disciplines available to nineteenth-century writers engaged in the study of the natural world. These various disciplines comprise the many ways nature was figured in popular, artistic, and scientific discourse, and each of these genres of nature writing brought with it particular ways to see, understand, value, and describe the natural world. The guidebook, the cartographical study, aesthetic theories, natural history essays, travel writing, and geological discourse were just some of the ways to write about nature in the nineteenth century that were prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic. This project traces the work of Wordsworth and Thoreau as they participate in these various disciplines, and each chapter addresses a separate discipline that was common to both writers--aesthetic theory, the guidebook, the nature ramble, and the travel narrative--and investigates how these two writers deploy the rhetoric of that discipline to construct a category of the natural. Brought into relief in this reading is an account of what is at stake for both individuals as they return to nature in their writing with unflagging interest throughout their careers. Ultimately, I argue that both writers present nature as the place where they develop and critique ideas about national and local political economy. That national and local political questions are figured through the same discourses of nature points to the existence of what I am calling the Green Atlantic World, a fictional and symbolic Anglophone world that values rural, domestic, and common green spaces. Wordsworth and Thoreau came to this world out of different social contexts, and they engaged it to divergent ends. Nevertheless, both writers trafficked in nearly identical formulations of the Green Atlantic World, and today, in many popular representations of their work, this world remains a powerful presence. Although figurations of the Green Atlantic World predate both writers, by examining the actual nineteenth-century discourses that Wordsworth and Thoreau participated in, this project illuminates how they engaged popular rhetorical practices to create a value-laden, yet precisely figured, natural world in ways that remain recognizable.
Kurt A. R. Moellering
Moellering, Kurt A. R., "William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, and the construction of the Green Atlantic World" (2010). English Dissertations. Paper 7. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20000137
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