By focusing on Blake's concern for the relationship between nature and ideology (including the politics of class, gender, and religion) Hutchings avoids the sentimentalism and misanthropic pitfalls all too often associated with environmental commentary. He articulates a distinctively Blakean perspective on current debates in literary theory and eco-criticism and argues that while Blake's peculiar humanism and profound emphasis upon spiritual concerns have led the majority of his readers to regard his work as patently anti-natural, such a view distorts the central political and aesthetic concerns of Blake's corpus. By showing that Blake's apparent hostility toward the natural world is actually a key aspect of his famous critique of institutionalized authority, Hutchings presents Blake's work as an example of "green Romanticism" in its most sophisticated and socially responsive form.
About the author
Kevin Hutchings is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Northern British Columbia. He has published numerous essays on the relationship between English literature and the history of ecological and environmentalist thought. His book Imagining Nature: Blake's Environmental Poetics (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002) examines William Blake's poetic representations of nature during the Romantic period in England, an era wherein concerns for environmental protection and animal rights first became prominent in Western history.
"This is an outstanding, provocative, paradigm-shifting book. It questions the view of Northrop Frye, which has generally prevailed in Blake studies for the last half century, that Blake regarded Nature as "miserably cruel, wasteful, purposeless, chaotic and half dead." It proposes instead that Blake envisioned an environmental poetics that celebrates natural cycles, in which every thing that lives is holy. This argument is advanced with commendable clarity, compelling evidence, and dialectical vigor. This is one of those rare and valuable books that leads its readers to question the established tenets of criticism without seeking to score debater's points or resorting to crude iconoclasm." James McKusick, Department of English, University of Maryland, Baltimore County