Nature, Environment and Poetry: Ecocriticism and the poetics of Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Nature, Environment and Poetry

Ecocriticism and the poetics of Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, 1st Edition

By Susanna Lidström


162 pages

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The environmental challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century are not only acute and grave, they are also unprecedented in kind, complexity and scope. Nonetheless, or therefore, the political response to problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss and widespread pollution continues to fall short. To address these challenges it seems clear that we need new ways of thinking about the relationship between humans and nature, local and global, and past, present and future. One place to look for such new ideas is in poetry, designed to contain multiple levels of meaning at once, challenge the imagination, and evoke responses that are based on something more than scientific consensus and rationale.

This ecocritical book traces the environmental sensibilities of two Anglophone poets; Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), and British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes (1930-1998). Drawing on recent and multifarious developments in ecocritical theory, it examines how Hughes's and Heaney's respective poetics interact with late twentieth century developments in environmental thought, focusing in particular on ideas about ecology and environment in relation to religion, time, technology, colonialism, semiotics, and globalisation.

This book is aimed at students of literature and environment, the relationship between poetry and environmental humanities, and the poetry of Ted Hughes or Seamus Heaney


"After the theoretical upheavals of the past five years or so, what is now needed in ecocritical scholarship is a book that takes account of these developments and applies them to texts we thought we knew. This is exactly what Lidström does, in an admirably clear, compelling style."Adeline Johns-Putra, Chair, Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland

"Lidström has written a lucid, wide-ranging ecocritical study of the most distinguished poets of the British Isles in the late 20th century. Her chief innovation is to orchestrate a subtle interplay between the poets’ collections and the theoretical frameworks they seem to require, rather than bashing them all into a single ecopoetic mould. The result is wonderfully illuminating."Greg Garrard, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, USA

"Susanna Lidström creates a fascinating and timely study of Hughes and Heaney as ecopoets. Arguing that environmental issues have ‘changed the mind of poetry’, she draws exciting new insights from ecosemiotics, postcolonial ecocriticism, and theories of local and global to create an innovative and important new work."–Yvonne Reddick, University of Central Lancashire, UK

"Lidström’s clear and accessible study illuminates two versions of ecopoetics, one committed to anti-anthropocentric revelation of what lies beyond social and cultural constructions of nature, the other invested in the intertwining of nature and culture. Examining the poetry of Hughes and Heaney through six distinct methodological and thematic lenses, she valuably highlights the diversity of contemporary ecocritical practices."–Lynn Keller, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Ecotrickster: Nature and Religion in Crow 2. Human History and Environmental Time: Postmodern nature in Heaney's bog poems 3. Technology and Landscape: Counter and recovery poems in Elmet 4. Colonised Nature: Heaney and postcolonial ecocriticism 5. Ecosemiotics: An anti-anthropocentrism in Hughes's animal poems 6. 'The Place in Me': Heaney, globalisation and sense of place Conclusions: Hughes, Heaney and the different natures of ecopoetics

About the Author

Susanna Lidström is a postdoctoral researcher at the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, with the Environmental Humanities Laboratory, at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

About the Series

Routledge Environmental Humanities

From microplastics in the sea to hyper-trends such as global climate change, mega-extinction, and widening social disparities and displacement, we live on a planet undergoing tremendous flux and uncertainty. At the center of this transformation is human culture, both contributing to the state of the world and responding to planetary change. The Routledge Environmental Humanities Series seeks to engage with contemporary environmental challenges through the various lenses of the humanities and to explore foundational issues in environmental justice, multicultural environmentalism, ecofeminism, environmental psychology, environmental materialities and textualities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, environmental communication and information management, multispecies relationships, and related topics. The series is premised on the notion that the arts, humanities, and social sciences, integrated with the natural sciences, are essential to comprehensive environmental studies.

The environmental humanities are a multidimensional discipline encompassing such fields as anthropology, history, literary and media studies, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, and women’s and gender studies; however, the Routledge Environmental Humanities is particularly eager to receive book proposals that explicitly cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing the full force of multiple perspectives to illuminate vexing and profound environmental topics. We favor manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. Our readers include scholars and students from across the span of environmental studies disciplines and thoughtful citizens and policy makers interested in the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected]), to submit proposals.

Praise for A Cultural History of Climate Change (2016):

A Cultural History of Climate Change shows that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help in the work of translation. These essays offer distinctive insights into how and why humans reason and imagine their ‘weather-worlds’ (Ingold, 2010). We learn about the interpenetration of climate and culture and are prompted to think creatively about different ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualised and acted upon beyond merely ‘saving the planet’.

Professor Mike Hulme, King's College London, in Green Letters

Series Editors:

Professor Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA

Professor Joni Adamson, Arizona State University, USA

Professor YUKI Masami, Kanazawa University, Japan

Previous editors:

Professor Iain McCalman, University of Sydney Research Fellow in History; Director, Sydney University Environment Institute.

Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Dr Paul Warde, Reader in Environmental History, University of Cambridge, UK

Editorial Board

Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of New South Wales, Australia, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, Liverpool UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Western Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA,□Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Jennifer Newell, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia , Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia

International Advisory Board

William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, Princeton University, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA, Kirsten Wehner, University of London, UK

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
NATURE / General
NATURE / Ecology
POETRY / General
SCIENCE / Environmental Science