Managed Arboreal Spaces: Moral Expectations of Human-Nature Interactions in the Poetry of William Wordsworth and Gary Snyder
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In the face of the environmental difficulties plaguing 21st century America, poetry from across the Anglo-American literary tradition can provide useful ways to understand how we should interact with nature. While facing different historical, cultural, and environmental circumstances, both William Wordsworth and Gary Snyder help us think through moral human management of nature. I examine the treatment of both poets’ treatment of managed arboreal spaces from Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, The Prelude, and other collections, and from Snyder’s Turtle Island and danger on peaks. These interactions lead us to a moral law which binds humans to respect nature’s ability to survive. If humans follow this moral law, then, according to both authors, humans will become equal participants in geocentric human-nature communities. I argue that these poetic representations of both ideal and immoral human management provide us with tools to determine the morality of contemporary land management and logging practices.