wonder, melancholy


We don’t have a good name for it – “nature writing” is about the best one can come up with. But that label has an obvious flaw. Anyone who was around 50 years ago will recall that the terms of reference changed radically, almost overnight, in the 1960s. The word “nature” gave way in popular discourse to “environment” and “nature writing” mutated into varieties of “eco-criticism”. The difference was conceptual. “Nature”, drawing on primeval myth and Romantic literature, had traditionally been conceived of as something superhuman and invincible. As Wordsworth grandly described it: A motion and a spirit that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things. Humans were part of that everything. Our species was no more capable of “destroying” nature than jellyfish can reverse the course of the Gulf Stream.

more from John Sutherland at the FT here.