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The New British Nature Writing: Seamus Heaney and Roger Deakin's Ecological Archive

Gearing, Jessica M. (2009)
Honors Thesis (73 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Gruber, William
Committee Members: Caruth, Cathy ; Ruttan, Lore ;
Research Fields: Literature, English
Keywords: Seamus Heaney, Roger Deakin, Ecological Archive, Irish Studies, Human Ecology, Nature Writing
Program: College Honors Program, English
Permanent url:


The New British Nature Writing: Seamus Heaney and Roger Deakin's Ecological Archive

By Jessica M. Gearing

This thesis explores the idea, as proposed in the Summer 2008 issue of Granta, that
British nature writing is a new nature writing with a generation of writers who "share a
sense that we are devouring our world, that there is simply no longer any natural
landscape or ecosystem that is unchanged by humans*." Contemporary British nature
writing is new in that it focuses on human ecology instead of natural ecology; that it
focuses on the way in which humans affect nature and are affected by nature instead of
the way in which non-human organisms relate to their environment. Thus, this new
nature writing tends to focus on the traditional agrarian lifestyle that has been replaced by
commercial agriculture, the mythical and spiritual relationship between British
landscapes and people, and relationship between power, land, and struggle. The object of
this thesis is to examine (1) the way in which Seamus Heaney's poetry addresses both the
Northern Irish landscape and the global environment, (2) the possibility of contemporary
British nonfiction, specifically that of Roger Deakin, to restore local identity and inspire
action, and (3) the relation of memory to action, art to ethics. Through a close reading
Seamus Heaney's poetry to-date through the theoretical lens of memory established by
Pierre Nora and a reading of Roger Deakin's literary nonfiction through the lens of
Heideggarian dwelling, I question the role literature plays in preserving and remembering
active sites of ecological memory and in urging ethical action.

*Cowley, Jason."The New Nature Writing." Granta 102(2008).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1. Introduction---7

2. Seamus Heaney: Memory and the Ecological Archive---22

3. Roger Deakin: The Act of Dwelling in Literature---46


application/pdf Dissertation/Thesis 73 pages (758.6 KB) [Access copy of Dissertation/Thesis]
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