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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Stick with Bate's ROMANTIC ECOLOGYApril 7 2013
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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.