The focus of this study is the perception of nature in the language of poetry and the languages of natural philosophy, technology, theology, and global exploration, primarily in seventeenth-century England. Its premise is that language and the perception of nature vitally affect each other and that seventeenth-century poets, primarily John Milton, Andrew Marvell, and Henry Vaughan, but also Margaret Cavendish, Thomas Traherne, Anne Finch, and others, responded to experimental proto-science and new technology in ways that we now call 'ecological' - concerned with watersheds and habitats and the lives of all creatures. It provides close readings of works by these poets in the contexts of natural history, philosophy, and theology as well as technology and land use, showing how they responded to what are currently considered ecological issues: deforestation, mining, air pollution, drainage of wetlands, destruction of habitats, the sentience and intelligence of animals, overbuilding, global commerce, the politics of land use, and relations between social justice and justice towards the other-than-human world. In this important book, Diane McColley demonstrates the language of poetry, the language of responsible science, and the language of moral and political philosophy all to be necessary parts of public discourse.
Prize: A Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2008 James Holly Hanford Award of the Milton Society of America for the distinguished book of 2007 'Startlingly comprehensive, this work makes clear that air pollution, deforestation, wetland loss, radical changes in land use, animal rights, and a host of similar issues were surprisingly timely ones in the seventeenth century, routinely making their appearance in the literature of the day. This eye-opening, beautifully written book is absolutely essential for anyone interested in the literary history of the natural world.' Ken Hiltner, author of Milton and Ecology ’… a spectacular ecocritical analysis of 17th-century English poetry… Highly recommended.’ Choice ’… readers will no doubt be rewarded by McColley’s insights into early-modern sensibilities that commune with nature.’ Seventeenth-Century News ’A deep love of poetry animates McColley's writing, and reading her fascinating research into early modern science, philosophy and religion comes with the pleasure of her celebrations of language and nature. Such enthusiasms are so rare in academic criticism, which so often reads more like dead matter than vital spirit.’ Renaissance Quarterly ’McColley's study is as useful as it is inspiring … includes brilliant illustrations and an index to enhance the learning experience …’ Sixteenth Century Journal
Contents: Preface; Introduction: the state of nature and the problem of language; Perceiving habitats: Marvell and the language of sensuous reciprocity; Earth, mining, monotheism and mountain theology; Air, water, woods; Hylozoic poetry: the lives of plants; Zoic poetry: animals, ornithology, and the ethics of empathy; Animal ethics and radical justice; Milton's prophetic epics; Bibliography; Index.