Nature Writing

Nature has been “the subject of imaginative literature in every country and in every age” (Finch and Elder 1990, 19), inspiring sustained attention as far and wide as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Bible, the Tao Te Ching, Aristotle’s Physics, Virgil’s Georgics, and the Bhagavad Gita (Torrance 1999). However, the term “nature writing” is most often associated with a much more specific genre of nonfiction prose in English that many scholars trace back to British curate Gilbert White’s 1789 Natural History of Selbourne. White broke away from the conventional practice of natural history, which focused on examining stuffed or dried specimens, by affectionately describing living animals and plants in their natural settings around his country home. Following in White’s footsteps by blending lyricism or other literary qualities with scientific facts or observations of nature, nature writing typically also incorporates personal reflection or philosophical interpretation (Finch and Elder 1990; Lyon 1989; Murphy 2000, 2008; Slovic 2003).

This essay may be found on page 156 of the printed volume.

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