A timely reassessment of William Blake's philosophy of nature that sheds new light on the conceptual roots of present-day ecological thinking.
In Imagining Nature Kevin Hutchings combines insights garnered from literary history, poststructuralist theory, and the emerging field of ecological literary studies. He considers William Blake's illuminated poetry in the context of the eighteenth-century model of "nature's economy,' a conceptual paradigm that prefigured modern-day ecological insights, describing all earthly entities as integrated parts of a dynamic, interactive system. Hutchings details Blake's sympathy for - and important suspicions concerning - the burgeoning contemporary fascination with such things as environmental ethics, animal rights, and the various fields of scientific naturalism. By focusing on Blake's concern for the relationship between nature and ideology (including the politics of class, gender, and religion) Hutchings avoids the sentimentalism and misanthropic pitfalls all too often associated with environmental commentary. He articulates a distinctively Blakean perspective on current debates in literary theory and eco-criticism and argues that while Blake's peculiar humanism and profound emphasis upon spiritual concerns have led the majority of his readers to regard his work as patently anti-natural, such a view distorts the central political and aesthetic concerns of Blake's corpus. By showing that Blake's apparent hostility toward the natural world is actually a key aspect of his famous critique of institutionalized authority, Hutchings presents Blake's work as an example of "green Romanticism" in its most sophisticated and socially responsive form.