"Urbanatural Roosting" in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2016





Publication Title

The Wordsworth Circle


Wordsworth's "Composed on Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802" links the energy of his greatest nature poems to England's largest urban space, a relationship that I explored in Beyond Ro­mantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting (11-14).The goal of Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism was to overcome one of the surviving Enlightenment dual­isms: the long-held distinction between nature and culture, the sense that one "thing" exists in the streets of central London (human culture) while something very different exists in the hills of the Lake District (wild nature). From the perspective of the urbanatural, this distinction is overcome: London is nature (with the same air, the same water, and soil as the wildest wilderness of Northern En­gland) and the Lake District is also culture (at least insofar as the mountains "contain" culture once the first human arrives, once any human speaks or writes about them in any way). The naturalist in Gore-Tex clothing (a petroleum product) traveling to the wild coast of Cumbria in a carbon-belching bus or airplane creates a powerful contradiction sim­ilar to the urbanist who claims he has nothing to do with wild nature, all the while eating fresh salmon caught in the North Atlantic and drinking bottled water from the springs of Scotland. These contradic­tions are resolved by linking the human with the nonhuman, city life with natural life, by acknowledg­ing that the nonhuman natural places and exper­iences contain the fully human, cultural places and experiences, while the human cultural places and experiences contain the natural. That is what I have called "urbanatural roosting," the subtitle of Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism.


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This article was published in the special issue: 'In Honor of Robert Langbaum'.

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