Abstracts: Volume 3

"“Equall freedome, equall fare”: The Illusion of Egalitarianism in the Country House Poem"
by Jim Casey
This essay challenges the common critical reading of the country house poem as an accurate historical representation of the “harmonious” social utopia supposedly found within the country house; it refutes the assertion that the genre works to promote a kind of early modern proto-egalitarianism and demonstrates that the country house poems actually serve to reify rather than subvert the underlying social hierarchies of the period. Beginning with G.R. Hibbard’s foundational ideas regarding the country house poem, this essay deconstructs the illusion of The Idealized Place, the false dichotomy of Use versus Show, the myth of The Utopia of the Open House, the metaphysical paradigm of Everything in Its Place, and concludes with a discussion of Enclosure, Leveling, and Pruning.
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"“Companions of My Thoughts More Green”: Damon’s Baconian Sexing of Nature"
by Anthony J. Funari
This article examines the relevance that Francis Bacon’s call for humanity to engage in a (re)productive relationship with Nature has for Andrew Marvell’s “The Mower’s Song.” Rather than viewing Damon’s realization of his isolation from the meadows as solely due to his emerging sexual feeling for Juliana, this article complicates the Mower’s plight by arguing that Damon experiences a tropological shift in how he characterizes Nature. While in “Damon, the Mower” sexuality appears alien to the natural world, Damon comes to recognize Nature as a sexual entity through his depiction of the grass’s growth as “luxuriant” and the meadows as a participant in a May-game festivity. The transition that Damon experience parallels that which Bacon demands for the sciences. For Bacon, the restoration of humanity’s Edenic mastery begins with treating Nature as any woman subject to masculine domination. However, in perceiving Nature through terms similar to those that Bacon advocates, Marvell’s protagonist does not discover a path to back Paradise but reenacts the Fall. On this basis, Marvell offers a counter narrative to the one Bacon posits in which the new science returns humanity to its prelapsarian mastery over Nature.
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"The Metamorphosis of Ajax, jakes, and early modern urban sanitation"
by Dolly Jørgensen
This article examines Sir John Harington’s A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called The Metamorphosis of Ajax through the lens of urban environmental history, examining the everyday context of Harington’s discourse. It argues that although Harington may have used the work for the political and social commentary discussed by other scholars, he also puts forward a vision of a new physical urban sanitation system to address concerns about disease transmission from exposure to waste. His proposal includes both individually-owned improved flushed privies and government-sponsored sewage systems, a hitherto overlooked element of his program.
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"“Why are we by all creatures waited on?”: Situating John Donne and George Herbert in Early Modern Ecological Discourse"
by Laura Ralph
Scholars of early modern literary ecocriticism have focused much deserved attention on writers whose works abound with the images and themes of nature. Little attention has been paid in this regard to the works of John Donne, for his writings focus more intently upon the inner workings of the human subject than they do the physical environment. However, it is precisely Donne’s philosophically inclined, interrogative mode of thinking that enables him to consider the human relation to the material world with a heightened degree of sensitivity. Donne’s treatment and discussion of nonhuman nature are less frequent than many of his contemporaries. Yet when Donne’s literary representations of the natural environment are contrasted to the abundant nature poetry of contemporary poet George Herbert, it is Donne, who interrogates anthropocentric assumptions of his era, while Herbert, reasserts the prevailing framework without question. Although Donne’s poetry does not consistently resonate with ecological sentiment, in his willingness to question assumptions of human superiority, Donne emerges as an ecologically conscious early modern poet and a worthy contributor to the discourse of early modern ecology.
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"Spenser’s Green World"
by Alfred K. Siewers
Northrop Frye’s 60-year-old theory of a “green world” tradition in early English literature can be adapted productively today to environmental literary criticism, which enables an understanding of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene as an environmental text. Understood today in light of ecocritical theory including ecosemiotics, and placed in a more cosmopolitan context than Frye’s theory allowed, The Faerie Queene can be re-read with the landscape of the archipelago centered on the Irish Sea as its central character. The iconographic mirroring emphasized in its proems and the Mutabilitie Cantos can be unpacked as reflecting a view of cosmic networks expressing a triadic semiotics at odds with both Scholastic and modern scientific metaphysics--a kind of apophatic theological transformation of Derridean notions of deconstruction, all in accord with notions of environmental phenomenology and ecosemiotics today. The contrast between the Bower of Bliss and the Garden of Adonis, unfolding into the famous scenes on Mount Acidale and Arlo Hill, reveals an ecopoetic landscape increasingly rooted in Spenser’s encounter with Ireland. The resulting ecocritical reading relates earlier Insular literary roots and non-Augustinian patristic influences on the poem to efforts in environmental humanities to subvert the totalizing metaphysics of Western science today.
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UTA Graduate Student Prize Essay

"An Ecocritical Exploration of The Unique Nature of Oceans in The Blazing World"
by Marykate Earnest
Early modern perceptions of oceanic space diverged from standard perceptions of nature on land (or land-nature) because oceans presented a different type of wilderness. Because oceans defied early modern definitions of nature, they refused to support the developing mechanistic approach in the way that land-nature did. I examine Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World to illustrate how the liminal position of oceans within the humankind-nature paradigm necessitated a hybrid mechanistic-organic relationship and representation. This exploration demonstrates how oceans, as an extraterrestrial space distanced from traditional, terrestrial nature, constituted a different kind of natural phenomenon and contributed to a global mentality. Experimenting with humankind’s perceptions of, and approaches to, nature suggests that the organic/mechanistic dichotomy is an overly-simplified paradigm, and that the human/nature partition is equally simplistic due to differing “natures” of terrestrial verses oceanic space. Oceans do not fit neatly under the paradigm of “nature,” they deviate through resistance and idiosyncrasy. Charting oceans proves an effective step in diversifying definitions, representations, and perceptions of nature.
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