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An Ecofeminist Reading of William Wordsworth’s Poetry

Author GengZuoZuo
Tutor ZhangJingSheng
School Shandong Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords ecofeminism Wordsworth poetry
Type Master's thesis
Year 2007
Downloads 841
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As one of the greatest poets in the Romantic period, great attention has been paid to William Wordsworth, his poetry and his poetic theory. During the second half of the twentieth century, with the new development in the field of literary criticism, Wordsworth’s works have been re-evaluated and re-appreciated. On one hand, ecocritics established Wordsworth’s status as a poet of Nature, an environmentalist whose organic concept of Nature is the most fundamental component of the Romantic Ecology. On the other hand, Wordsworth was criticized by Feminist literary critics who believed that Wordsworth’s concept of women was quite conservative and backward, because Wordsworth tried to cultivate women both in his daily life and his poetic works. The author of this thesis holds that the Feminist reading of Wordsworth’s poetry is quite limited because it does not take into consideration the especially lofty status of Nature in Wordsworth’s poetry and thoughts and the contemporary social condition is largely neglected.Ecofeminism is a newly developed branch of literary criticism. Ecofeminists hold that the current global environmental crisis is a predictable outcome of patriarchal culture, the double dominations of male over Nature and women are closely connected and women cannot be liberated without the liberation of Nature. Ecofeminists further identify eight types of connections between Nature and women in order to prove the intrinsic closeness that women have with Nature. The conclusion of all the research done by ecofeminists is that to be an ecologist, one must also be a feminist, and vice versa. Inspired by this conclusion, this thesis is devised to refute the argument of the feminist literary critics that Wordsworth’s concept of women is conservative and backward and at same time establish Wordsworth’s position as an ecofeminist, whose treatment of the matters connected with women is unprecedentedly ahead of the time and progressive.The Western Dualism of patriarchy identified by ecofeminists is Wordsworth’s first target. In his writings, the fundamental four dualisms, namely, Human(male)/Nature, Human(male)/Animal, Reason/Feeling and Male/Female, are interpreted from a contradictory perspective under the guidance of his organic view of Nature. The Wordsworthian dualisms are different from the traditional western dualisms in patriarchal society in that he treated the originally inferior sides of western dualisms—Nature, animal, feeling and female—as being equal with the originally superior sides. What Wordsworth did was to defend the equality of all the creatures, of course, including women. Women held a unique role in Wordsworth’s life. He treated them as his faithful audience and competent advisors. Wordsworth’s household was filled with such kind of women, among whom, the three most important ones were his mother, his sister Dorothy and his wife Mary. They played the roles of not only the supporters of Wordsworth’s literary career and but also his mental and spiritual guides. Wordsworth admired women’s power and was grateful to their devoted assistance. As a poet, his admiration of women and gratitude for their contribution were expressed from his heart through his poetry.Although there is no historical record to show that Wordsworth ever took part in any forms of women’s struggles for equal rights, he indeed, in his poetry, emphasized women’s superior status in Nature and advocated women’s equal rights in society. At least, as a worshipper of Nature and an upholder of the equality of all creatures on earth, how can Wordsworth defy women, Nature’s closest and most intimate beings that are ever created? Therefore, ecologically speaking, Wordsworth is a feminist, an ecofeminist.

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