Hopkins' Spiritual Ecology in

Hopkins' Spiritual Ecology in "Binsey Poplars" (Critical Essay)

By Victorian Poetry

  • Release Date - Published: 2004-06-22
  • Book Genre: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Author: Victorian Poetry
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Hopkins' Spiritual Ecology in "Binsey Poplars" (Critical Essay) Victorian Poetry read online review & book description:

AS AN INTERDISCIPLINARY ENDEAVOR, ECOCRITICISM, "THE STUDY OF THE relationship between literature and the physical environment," (1) has been with us for more than a decade, yet its impact on the study of Victorian literature has been slight, and on Victorian poetry even less. Jonathan Bate devotes part of a chapter to John Ruskin and William Morris in his groundbreaking study Romantic Ecology, (2) but little else appeared until the publication of The Environmental Tradition in English Literature, (3) an essay collection edited by John Parham. In his own contribution to the volume, "Was there a Victorian Ecology?," Parham briefly lays out the ecocritical credentials and potential of a number of Victorian writers, asserting, in the final paragraph, that "[Gerard Manley] Hopkins was the one Victorian poet who consistently, imaginatively re-created the specific conditions of the Victorian ecosystem" (pp. 170-171). Parham makes large claims for Hopkins, whose poems, he believes, "contain an imaginative seed with the essence, not just of a broader understanding of Hopkins, or of Victorian ecology, or even of ecocriticism, but of ecology, itself" (p. 171). To date, however, no significant attempt at an ecocritical reading of Hopkins has appeared since a pair of essays by Jerome Bump in the early 1970s. (4) Parham argues that from its Victorian beginnings, ecology has been "both a scientific and a social philosophy" (p. 156), and he posits an ecocritical approach that parallels this development. While it is certainly true that Hopkins was aware of and actively engaged in scientific enquiry, (5) and that he experienced and wrote of the environmental degradation of Britain's countryside and inner cities, (6) his ecological and economic views owe at least as much to his spiritual beliefs as they do to science and social philosophy, something evident in his poetry and theological writings alike. In pursuing the argument that Hopkins' writings demonstrate an ecological worldview--that is, one acknowledging the interrelatedness of the human economy with nature's economy--this paper will argue, through a reading of "Binsey Poplars: felled 1879," that Hopkins' ecology is fundamentally spiritual, and constituted as a tripartite economy, with the divine economy inseparable from the human economy and nature's. (7)

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