'Fellowship of sense with all that breathes': Eighteenth-Century Women Writers, War, and the Environment
Type of Degreedissertation
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In “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” environmental historian William Cronon writes that in order to live responsibly with nature, we must learn to recognize nature in our own backyards. The poems I include in my dissertation are written by important eighteenth-century women writers, who did recognize the nature in their own backyards and understood the role that nature played in the development of their nation and the world. This dissertation employs Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies to poems published between 1780 and 1812 by various women poets, including Anna Seward, Helen Maria Williams, Charlotte Smith, Anne Bannerman, and Anna Letitia Barbauld. Throughout the century, women’s poetry offers insight into civilian responses to war and testifies to the fact that women did write about public and political affairs, and in my dissertation, I argue that eighteenth-century women writers understood war through the damage it did to the environment. Their poetry reveals an eighteenth-century environmental consciousness, which reminds us that the environment has always been, as Lawrence Buell states, “a pressing problem.” It is not a coincidence that oftentimes their poems use the environment to discuss the impact of war because they understood that military glory is only the result of both human and non-human destruction. In exploring the role nature plays in eighteenth-century women’s war poetry, I prove that an environmental awareness existed in the eighteenth century.