Nature

For the environmentalist and literary critic alike, “nature” has multiple meanings. The zoologist Colin Tudge (2005) observes that “all definitions of nature are simply for convenience, helping us to focus on the particular aspect that we happen to be thinking about at the time.” Of the General Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1387), the literary critic John F. Danby (1961) notes that for Chaucer, the word has three dimensions: Nature is a kind of goddess, the collective force of animate life; it is the material world of organic growth and change; and it is the responsive disposition in the hearts of individual creatures, including humankind—external nature stimulates human nature. In Shakespeare’s King Lear (1608/1623), however, Nature is (for Lear) the embodiment of Reason as ordained by God, and human nature’s task is to act in accordance with a metaphysical absolute: children will love their parents, subjects obey their king. …

This essay may be found on page 161 of the printed volume.

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