Celebration and Longing: Robert Browning and the Nonhuman World

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Book Chapter

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Victorian Writers and the Environment: Ecocritical Perspectives


Robert Browning--although not yet the subject of a great deal of scholarship that could be described as "ecocritical"--was the Victorian poet who, as much as any other, saw the plant and the animal kingdoms as central aspects of his work as a lyricist. From his earliest Shelleyan verses in the 1820s, up through the masterpiece lyrics, dramatic monologues, and other poems of the 1830s-1860s, all the way to the now-obscure narrative, dramatic, and translated verses of the 1870s and 1880s, Browning saw the natural world as a crucial index for understanding our human world and the nonhuman reality that surrounds us. For him, "nature" was not so much a category distinguished by its "otherness" as it was a part of a continuum of living creatures and even nonliving entities. These natural elements help us to understand and appreciate our place, as Homo sapiens, the most fully self-aware beings on earth.


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