chapter  4
10 Pages

Roses in Winter: Recipe Ecologies and Shakespeare’s Sonnets

ByRebecca Laroche

Jane Bennett’s evocative descriptions of “vibrant matter” have lately attracted early modern ecocritics trying to get at the strangeness of things, but while this theoretical picture resonates, it only awkwardly applies.3 That is, the vitality, the life “in excess of . . . human meanings,” that Bennett perceives in her opening tableau of “stuff” caught in a storm drain-and in general through the cultural artifacts she gleans from the American Romantics forward-would have been absurd in its obviousness to individuals who were embedded in the messiness of matter on a daily basis and, more importantly, tied to the material world around them not just by aestheticized perception but by labor and the concrete knowledge that comes with it. And while the difference still lies in the quality of human perception, an appreciation of this difference is essential for successful early modern ecocritical inquiry. That is, when the human and nonhuman are so closely intertwined, so are their vulnerabilities, as well as their agentic capacities. By importing wholesale this post-Walden ecological theory and ignoring this embeddedness in the interest of articulating nonhuman agency, we lose the contours and consequences of not only early modern relationships with the environment but also our own.