John Fowles and Nature: Fourteen Perspectives on Landscape

John Fowles and Nature: Fourteen Perspectives on Landscape

John Fowles and Nature: Fourteen Perspectives on Landscape

John Fowles and Nature: Fourteen Perspectives on Landscape


"That John Fowles is a nature writer as well as a novel writer is evident in various ways from the essays in this volume. Each one, in its way, explores an aspect of Fowles's complex awareness of the world around him and the uniquely protective attitude toward wild nature that has informed Fowles's fiction and nonfiction from the onset of his writing career." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Even a bare grassy isle which I can see entirely over at a glance,
has some undefined and mysterious charm for me.

—Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord
and Merrimack Rivers

Now I live here, another island,
that doesn't seem like one, but who decides?

—Elizabeth Bishop, “Crusoe in England”

WHEN JOHN GARDNER PREDICTED THAT THE WORKS OF JOHN FOWLES would “stand as literary classics” of the late twentieth century, he was thinking of Fowles as a fellow novelist—“the only writer in English who has the power, range, knowledge, and wisdom of a Tolstoi or James.” Another feature of Fowles's writing that should make him a spokesman for the age is the call to awareness of the natural world that has long informed his writing, nonfiction as well as fiction. Perhaps Fowles's success as a novelist has obscured his recognition as a nature writer, for by tradition prose fiction and essays about nature are very different kinds of writing. Depictions of the natural world in a novel typically provide the setting for a more important plot, whereas nature writers are typically seeking empirical truth in their essays, the kind of nonfiction associated with Charles Darwin or Henry David Thoreau. Both kinds of writing can be artful, but they are usually considered distinct. Because Fowles writes in both genres and sometimes blurs their distinctions, critical readers would be wise to consider his fiction and nonfiction comprehensively, and in relation to one another.

A comprehensive view of Fowles's writing would be in the spirit of ecology, of course, the very field whose name has been borrowed for literary studies of nature: ecocriticism. In The Ecocriticism Reader, Cheryll Glotfelty notes that the field of literary studies has been late to join other disciplines that have been “'greening' since the 1970s.” She explains that ecocritics should continue to avoid restricting and systematizing what they do, so that the field will invite “suggestive and open” study of literature and the natural environment, of how . . .

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