chapter  17
12 Pages

Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House” and Tree-Felling: A Political Woodpecker

ByJeffrey Theis

In our own time the intersection of nature and politics is an accepted if contentious space. The ways in which human beings define nature, particularly whether they see themselves as part of the natural world or external to it, have profound consequences not only for nature but for the human political animal. While contemporary students in the English literature classroom clearly recognize this contentious space, the intersection of politics and nature in times and cultures past is murkier and requires more pedagogical groundwork. Yet, teaching the politics of nature from a historical perspective can bring into sharp relief literary passages that otherwise appear arcane or obscure. This approach is not meant to explain a possibly confusing passage from literature, though, as that would render it more of an elaborate footnoting process. Instead, this approach helps students understand that historical periods other than their own also debated what nature is in distinctly political and polemical ways.