A field of cultural criticism which seeks to interpret texts in terms of the ways in which humans and human actions affect the natural world. The articulation of personal human relationships with nature has a long association with poetry in particular – British Romanticism might be the most obvious example – and for this reason ecocriticism is often concerned mainly, although not exclusively, with poetics. However, Ecocriticism does not simply describe how nature and the natural world have served as creative inspiration for poets or prose writers. Its purpose is to uncover the ways in which ‘nature’ has been culturally constructed, and to what ends. Simultaneously, it shows how texts consider the impact of human activity and existence on an environment which really exists, and imagine less harmful modes of living, as individuals and as communities. In Wordsworth’s ‘Nutting’, for example, he recalls an afternoon’s nut-gathering as a child, and the “sense of pain” he felt once his “merciless ravage” was complete and the hazels stripped bare. Wordsworth asks that the future visitor
Move along these shades
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand
Touch, for there is a spirit in the woods.
The poem acknowledges the inevitability of an ongoing relationship between woods and humans, but asks that such interactions be conducted with empathy and care.
Defined by Beatrice Turner