The Lecture in Zoom:


If you have any questions about the lecture or if you wish to read the poems that will be discussed beforehand, please contact Professor of Literature Anna Cullhed,

Kate Rigby
Kate Rigby.


With the expansion of publishing and the growth of the reading public in Britain during the eighteenth century, the space of literature becomes an increasingly important site for ethico-political debate and discussion. While there existed a longer pre-history of popular political balladry, now other more high-cultural genres of poetry too might become recruited to the purpose of political protest, e.g. against the slave trade.

‘Iron Works, Colebrook Dale’, 1805. Aquatint engraving by William Pickett, hand-coloured by John Clark, after an original work by Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg. Credit © Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library - All rights reserved.

In this talk, I will consider two contrasting examples of environmental protest poetry from the Romantic period, exemplifying differing constructions of ‘nature’ and versions of environmentalism, which are associated with their authors’ very different social positions and relations with the land: the middle-class Anna Seward’s ‘Colebrooke Dale’, which laments the despoliation of a picturesque landscape by the world’s first coal-fired iron foundry, and two poems by the rural labourer, John Clare, which protest the impact of the enclosure of the commons on a more-than-human land community. Approaching the mixed legacy of Romantic ecopoetics through the lens of the environmental humanities, I will also consider some of the continued resonances of these contrasting forms of ecopoetry and types of environmentalism, which can be still be found the bounds of the literary sphere.


Professor Dr. Kate Rigby (Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation) is Director of the Research Centre for Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University and Adjunct Professor of Literary Studies at Monash University (Melbourne). Her research lies at the intersection of environmental literary, philosophical, historical and religious studies, with a specialist interest in European Romanticism, ecopoetics, and eco-catastrophe. A founding co-editor of the journal Philosophy Activism Nature, she is currently co-editor of the University Press of Virginia series, Under the Sign of Nature. Her books include Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism (2004), Dancing with Disaster: Environmental Histories, Narratives, and Ethics for Perilous Times (2015) and Reclaiming Romanticism: Towards and Ecopoetics of Decolonization (2020). A key researcher with the Humanities for the Environment Mellon Australia-Pacific Observatory, she was the inaugural President of the Association for the Study of Literature, Environment and Culture (Australia-New Zealand), and the founding Director of the Australia-Pacific Forum on Religion and Ecology.

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