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William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship: The Roots of Environmentalism in Nineteenth-Century Culture [Hardcover]

Scott Hess , John Tallmadge

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Book Description

April 12 2012 Under the Sign of Nature
In "William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship, " Scott Hess explores Wordsworth's defining role in establishing what he designates as "the ecology of authorship" a primarily middle-class, nineteenth-century conception of nature associated with aesthetics, high culture, individualism, and nation. Instead of viewing Wordsworth as an early ecologist, Hess places him within a context that is largely cultural and aesthetic. The supposedly universal Wordsworthian vision of nature, Hess argues, was in this sense specifically male, middle-class, professional, and culturally elite--factors that continue to shape the environmental movement today.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Virginia Pr (April 12 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813932300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813932309
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g

Product Description


Scott Hess has written a valuable book that reveals the limits of Romantic ecocriticism by explaining the danger of applying contemporary standards of environmentalism to an author like Wordsworth. Hess reveals that the apparent ecocentrism of many Romantic authors is based on aesthetic and cultural standards of their own era, not on our current land-ethic or an Audubon Society activism.--Ashton Nichols, Dickinson College

About the Author

Scott Hess, Associate Professor of English at Earlham College, is the author of "Authoring the Self: Self-Representation, Authorship, and the Print Market in British Poetry from Pope through Wordsworth."

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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stick with Bate's ROMANTIC ECOLOGY April 7 2013
By Yankee Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Suffice it to say that Wordsworth's "Nature" may not be our "Nature." It's an important point, and Hess makes it right off. But Hess is immediately disappointingly arbitrary in his comparisons and his readings, as pp. 30-32 where he compares "I wandered lonely" to Clare's "Sonnet: The Passing Traveler" to show how narrowly WW frames his poetic landscapes: WW's "I gazed--and gazed" singularizes the point of view because the phrase is repeated, while repetition in the Clare poem pluralizes point of view. WW's dancing daffodils remain objects for Hess, while barely mentioned horse and squirrel provide alternate points of view in Clare. One wonders if Hess's readings aren't "framed" far more tightly than any of Wordsworth's poems. And why not compare Clare's "Traveler" to WW's "Old Man Travelling" in the first place?

If Hess, comfortably ensconced at Earlham, can discern the difference between WW's privileged, narrowly-framed point of view and the broader unprivileged points of view of Clare and Dorothy, couldn't Wordsworth have done the same? It is a matter of notorious fact that he did exactly that, and that he was ridiculed for his "system" of doing so.

I find it difficult to convince myself to read two hundred more pages of an author who has demonstrated in only thirty that he is either an unreliable or an unfair reader. Three stars at least, though, for the contexts, old and new, in which Hess places Wordsworth.

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