Evolution of Man's Ecological Sense: An Ecocritical Reading of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner

By Gai, Fangpeng | Studies in Literature and Language, February 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

Evolution of Man's Ecological Sense: An Ecocritical Reading of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner


Gai, Fangpeng, Studies in Literature and Language


Abstract

Coleridge is one of the lake poets of Britain. For a long time, the lake poets were regarded as a negative group and were not given correct attention. In fact, they have paid much attention to nature in their works, and presented the readers with a profound moral theme, which is a symbol that they were concerned about the future destiny of the human being. Currently the ecocriticist reading of their works is a new way to search for the implied meaning of the poetry. Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a good representation of the relationship between mankind and nature. Based on this idea, this article will attempt to analyze the relationship between man and nature in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Key words: Coleridge; The Rime of the Ancient Mariner; Human and nature; Ecological awareness

INTRODUCTION

It is generally agreed that modern environmentalism begins with "A Fable for Tomorrow" in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (Garrard, 2004). The birth of this fable has aroused great discussion, and set off a massive ecological concern on the destruction of the environment. Ecocriticism, as a term, was proposed by the American scholar William Rueckert in 1978, which aims at applying the concept of the ecology and some other related concepts to the study of literature in order to arouse people's attention to their surroundings. But due to the absence of its core research organizations, ecocriticism had been in a fringe till the 1980s. It was until the mid- 1990s that ecocriticism as a genre had been established.

What then is ecocriticism? Simply put, ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment. Just as feminist criticism examines language and literature from a gender-conscious perspective, and Marxist criticism brings an awareness of modes of production and economic class to its reading of texts, ecocriticism takes an earth-centered approach to literary studies. (Glotfelty, 1996).

This concept was put forward by Glotfelty to show us that the main task of this subject is to examine the relationship between human beings and nature through the study of the literature and culture, which can help the human being to realize that the ecological crisis in nature is the crisis of human civilization, human nature and imagination, thus call for the protection of nature and harmonious coexistence between the human being and nature.

As we all know, all the British Romantic poets seem to harbor a kind of affection to nature. They are nature lovers and admirers. Their age is an era in which the Industrial Revolution began. Due to the rapid development of social productive forces, the widespread use of machines and the surge of the different products, a serious of global environmental pollution and ecological damage occurred. The relationship between the human being and nature became more and more tense, which also caused a threat to the survival of the human being. So some poets, such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, began to express their hope of the harmonious coexistence of the human being and nature, which also contains a kind of philosophical thinking. In their eyes, nature can purify people's souls, so people should get close to nature, and the harmony between man and nature is the most moral thing in the world. But in the real world, as the force of the human beings to conquer nature continue to strengthen, nature is not as mysterious and awful as before, but becomes the target of arbitrary plunder by the human being. As a result, the link between people and nature is broken, and the complete alienation from nature causes survival crisis for the human being. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as a great 19th-century British Romantic poet, though not very productive, has a very high literary reputation. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) is one of his masterpieces in the British literary history, which can be regarded as a representative classic to explore the relationship between human being and nature. …

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