Variations on <i>Nature</i>

John Gatta

in Making Nature Sacred

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780195165050
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835140 | DOI:
 Variations on Nature

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Among the divergent forms of nature writing that flourished in nineteenth-century America, the “Old Manse” preface by Hawthorne reflects a distinctive mood of contentment about the author’s residence in Concord, Massachusetts. This essay’s conception of nature is based not on a wilderness aesthetic, but on a pastoral sense of human interaction with the green world—a sense that Hawthorne associates in turn with Christian theological terms of grace and incarnation. The holiness of gardening likewise informs writing of this period by women such as Celia Thaxter and Margaret Fuller. The religious intensity of Walt Whitman’s ecopoetic worldview, epitomized by “Song of Myself,” ranges from the astronomical heights to the lowly plants mentioned in section 5 of this poem. Unlike Whitman’s oceanic poems, Herman Melville’s portrayal of the sea in Moby-Dick exposes nature’s underlying savagery and vulturism—but also raises deep questions about the divinely inscrutable freedom of Creation embodied by the great white whale.

Keywords: Nathaniel Hawthorne; Old Manse; grace; incarnation; Margaret Fuller; Celia Thaxter; gardening; Walt Whitman; Herman Melville; Moby-Dick

Chapter.  12465 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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