Visual form, visible nature
: radical landscape poetry and Romantic environmental aesthetics

  • Eleanore Widger

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Whilst there is a strong emerging body of criticism on innovative and open form poetries, particularly from ecocritical and environmental perspectives, the related but distinct genre of radical landscape poetry receives little specific attention. Named by Harriet Tarlo, the genre is so far represented by a single anthology, The Ground Aslant, published in 2011, which includes the work of sixteen poets from around Britain. This thesis constitutes the first in-depth critical engagement with radical landscape poetry, and in attempting to unpack some of the genre’s particular concerns, argues for the significance of Romanticism’s influence on radical landscape poetry’s treatment of the environment.

    I propose that radical landscape poetry warrants extensive critical attention because of its self-reflexive negotiation of visibility at a moment concerned with the ethics of representation; its attention to the land as something that is ‘scaped’ by acts of looking and representing, as well as its attention to environmental phenomena in their own right; and in addition, because of its interrogation of the relationship between the body and the poetic text. By re-articulating Romantic attitudes, radical landscape poetry reveals the divergences, congruities and continuities which link contemporary eco-ethical thought to earlier poetic and philosophical modes.

    The treatment of vision, visibility, the body and the environment in the poetry of the Wordsworths, Coleridge, and Clare, and the visual art of Blake, Turner and Friedrich, provides an instructive and illuminating context for reading radical landscape poetry. At the same time, the thematic and formal innovations of radical landscape poets provide fresh perspective on Romantic works. By positioning Romantic and radical landscape poetry in relation to contemporary phenomenological, existential and ecocritical discourses, this thesis offers new insights into both poetries, as well as advancing understandings of their relationship.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsArts & Humanities Research Council
    SupervisorAndrew Roberts (Supervisor) & Murdo Macdonald (Supervisor)

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