In William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship, Scott Hess explores Wordsworth’s defining role in establishing what he designates as "the ecology of authorship": a primarily middle-class, nineteenth-century conception of nature associated with aesthetics, high culture, individualism, and nation. Instead of viewing Wordsworth as an early ecologist, Hess places him within a context that is largely cultural and aesthetic. The supposedly universal Wordsworthian vision of nature, Hess argues, was in this sense specifically male, middle-class, professional, and culturally elite—factors that continue to shape the environmental movement today.
This book provides the most searching, historically informed assessment to date of William Wordsworth's motives and commitments as laureate, resident, guide, and defender of England's Lake Country, and in the process offers a stringent critique of the limits of Wordsworthian ‘ecology of authorship’ as a model for latter-day environmental(ist) imagination and practice.
Scott Hess has written a valuable book that reveals the limits of Romantic ecocriticism by explaining the danger of applying contemporary standards of environmentalism to an author like Wordsworth. Hess reveals that the apparent ecocentrism of many Romantic authors is based on aesthetic and cultural standards of their own era, not on our current land-ethic or an Audubon Society activism.
William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship is a strong corrective to prior understandings of Wordsworth's attitudes toward nature... [ Hess's] arguments will retain a vital crispness not just for students of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain but also for those inclined to consider man's autonomous or dependent relation to the natural world.
William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship represents an important and provocative contribution to ecocritical readings of Wordsworth, of British and American Romanticism, and of the legacy of Wordsworthian versions of "nature" and authorship in modern environmentalism.
Scott Hess, Associate Professor of English at Earlham College, is the author of Authoring the Self: Self-Representation, Authorship, and the Print Market in British Poetry from Pope through Wordsworth.