Ecocriticism and Eighteenth-Century English Studies

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Abstract

Although many ecocritical works written by Romanticists and others have neglected the importance of 18th-century English literature in the development of environmental concern, more recent ecocritical work has begun to pay closer and more sympathetic attention to writers from the end of the 17th century through the 1780s. New approaches to 18th-century poetry have emphasized an appreciation of natural beauty and fragility as well as utility, and a critical recognition of the distinction between georgic and pastoral views has begun to highlight nature as a working world (georgic) rather than an archaic refuge. Appropriately, studies of working-class poetry have now entered the field, and ecofeminism has begun to play a significant role in some recent revaluations. Postcolonial ecocriticism promises fuller development. A richer range of ecocritical readings of 18th-century texts should begin to lead not only to reassessments of individual works or authors but of the history of environmental consciousness.

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