The Voice of Nature in Ted Hughes’s Writing for Children: Correcting Culture's Error, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Voice of Nature in Ted Hughes’s Writing for Children

Correcting Culture's Error, 1st Edition

By Lorraine Kerslake


182 pages

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Despite the fame Ted Hughes’s poetry has achieved, there has been surprisingly little critical writing on his children’s literature.

This book identifies the importance of Hughes’s children’s writing from an ecocritical perspective and argues that the healing function that Hughes ascribes to nature in his children’s literature is closely linked to the development of his own sense of environmental responsibility. This book will be the first sustained examination of Hughes’s greening in relation to his writing for children, providing a detailed reading of Hughes’s children’s literature through his poetry, prose and drama as well as his critical essays and letters. In addition, it also explores how Hughes’s children’s writing is a window to the poet’s own emotional struggles, as well as his environmental consciousness and concern to reconnect a society that has become alienated from nature.

This book will be of great interest to not only those studying Ted Hughes, but also students and scholars of environment and literature, ecocriticism, children’s literature and twentieth-century literature.


"In this book Lorraine Kerslake takes Ted Hughes at his word in two respects that have hitherto been largely overlooked by Hughes scholars. First is his remarkable suggestion that in each new child lies the potential for nature to ‘correct culture’s error’. Never has the exploration of this idea been more urgently needed. Second is Hughes´s conception of art as the healing of wounds in the lives of both the artist and his audience. Following these two lines of enquiry together Lorraine Kerslake makes profound and ultimately redemptive discoveries in her ecocritical readings of Hughes’s important writings for children that are also ‘within hearing’ of adult readers."Professor Terry Gifford, Editor, Ted Hughes in Context (2018), Chair, The Ted Hughes Society

"By entwining Ted Hughes’s writing for children with his environmental activism, Lorraine Kerslake brings together elements of his work typically kept apart. From Rachel Carson to Lawrence Buell she reads current ecocritical theory in the context of the characters who figure in Ted Hughes’s poetry and prose for children. Nessie, the Iron Man, the Iron Woman, Ffangs and many other outsized magical creatures who populate Hughes’s works are characterized as heroic leaders imaginatively conscripting armies of child readers into "correcting culture’s error." As the dangers of global environmental disasters grow ever closer, Kerslake’s book maps Hughes’s programme for redemption, healing, and possibly, grace." — Professor Lissa Paul, Brock University, Ontario, Canada, co-editor of The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature (2005) and Keywords for Children’s Literature (2011), and author of The Children’s Book Business (2011)

"Lorraine Kerslake's Correcting Culture's Error provides a timely and much needed addition to Hughes scholarship that will be welcomed by both general and specialist readers. Although scholars have long recognised the central importance of Hughes's writing for children, this is the first book-length study to explore the significance of this writing in a comprehensive way. Kerslake offers a full discussion of all Hughes's work for children - drama, poetry, prose and radio programs. She offers fresh insights into every aspect of his oeuvre, delineating the profound significance of children for Hughes own development. She positions Hughes's lifelong engagement with child readers within the context of his deepening ecological awareness and commitment to repairing the major fault-lines in our culture. This is likely to become a standard reference point for everyone engaged with these issues."David Whitley, Cambridge University, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction; Part One: Speaking Through the Voice of Nature; 1. A Life Close to Nature 2. Reconnecting with Nature; Part Two: Healing the Wounds - an Ecocritical Analysis of Hughes’s Writing for Children; 3. The Seeds of Hughes’s Children’s Writing 4. Hughes’s Children’s Plays 5. Hughes’s Children’s Poetry 6. Hughes’s Children’s Prose; Conclusion

About the Author

Lorraine Kerslake holds a PhD in children’s literature and ecocriticism, and has published widely in the field. She also has a BA in English and French studies and an MA in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Alicante, Spain, where she currently works teaching English Language and Literature.

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

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature
NATURE / Ecology