Although the British romantic poets—notably, Blake, Wordsworth, and Byron—have been the subjects of previous ecocritical examinations, Kate Rigby’s Topographies of the Sacred is the first book to compare English and German literary models of romanticism. Rigby treats not only canonical British romantics but an array of major figures in Continental literature, philosophy, and natural history, including Rousseau, Herder, Goethe, Schelling, Schiller, and Alexander von Humboldt. Following the pioneering work of Jonathan Bate and Karl Kroeber, she probes romantic understandings of nature, the source of the sacred, the power of place, and the role of literature, with a view to uncovering the tensions and ambivalences within the European romantic tradition. The result is a synthetic and philosophically inflected study that looks at the literary and ecological significance of place within a broad cultural context.
Kate Rigby is working in an increasingly important area of ecocritical and romantic studies, and she brings to her task an impressive combination of erudition and scholarship, as well as a graceful prose style. Topographies of the Sacred is particularly valuable because of the comparative element it brings to this work. Rigby's analysis of literary 'nature' will occasion discussion, debate, and ongoing research.
Kate Rigby, Senior Lecturer in German Studies and Comparative Literature at Monash University, Australia, is the author of Transgressions of the Feminine: Tragedy, Enlightenment, and the Figure of Woman in Classical German Drama.