Georgic rest and pastoral labor: John Clare’s Environmentalism AND “Fled for Shelter to a Heart of Nature”: gender and the environment in Mary Wilkins Freeman’s Six Trees

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Gianina Marie Coturri Sorenson (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Karen Kilcup

Abstract: Although John Clare, a Romantic era poet, has been lauded as one of the earliest environmental poets, few scholars have identified the specifics of his environmental argument. Clare’s position seems obscure not only because his position shifts but also because he draws heavily on pastoral and georgic literature to craft his environmental claims. Clare's complex transformations of georgic and pastoral themes reveal his desire to form what I call a mingled community, one that strives to include humans and non-human nature. Much Clare criticism has examined the same poems, particularly his political poem, “The Mores.” My work analyzes this poem but, to create a larger poetic context, I will also examine “Proposals for Building a Cottage” and “The Cottager.” The former text evokes georgic poetry, but resembles a pastoral; in contrast, “The Cottager” clearly adheres to georgic poetry, while still utilizing various pastoral elements. The complex relationship these poems have with classic al poetry help illuminate “The Mores.” Although this poem seems less related to typical pastoral and georgic tropes, its subtle connections embody Clare’s environmental argument. After examining “The Mores,” which depicts wild nature alongside a human community, I will explore Clare’s badger poems. The s e poems illustrate the mingled community that Clare wishes to build between the natural environment and humans, and establishes his status as an environmental poet. In 1903, Mary Wilkins Freeman published a volume of short stories. The stories in Six Trees (1903) revolve around a transformative experience. Freeman inflects all the stories with a strong environmental argument informed by gender that makes her much more of an environmental writer than most scholars have acknowledged. The author argues in each story that people need a connection to nature, whether that is a great pine in the middle of the wilderness or an ornamental poplar in the front yard. Without this connection, people lose track of what is important and begin to overemphasize humanity, forgetting not only that nature has a place in the world but also that nature can promote spiritual enlightenment. Freeman asks her readers to replace outdated and anthropocentric religious models with a more inclusive spiritualty that incorporates nature and emphasizes relationships between humanity and the nonhuman world. I will examine how each story contributes to Freeman's ecofeminist argument. Throughout the collection, the illustrations form a meta-text, one that complicates the main text. By examining the interaction between the text and the illustrations, Freeman's ecofeminism emerges. Ultimately, my analysis of Six Trees will demonstrate Freeman's importance to the environmental canon and early ecofeminism.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Clare, Ecofeminism, Environmentalism, Freeman
Clare, John, $d 1793-1864 $x Criticism and interpretation
Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, $d 1852-1930 $x Criticism and interpretation
Nature in literature
Environmentalism in literature

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