Chapter one: Wendy and Alice’s journey into the Symbolic

The two main female protagonists in Peter and Wendy and Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are Wendy and Alice who find themselves in a purgatory type scenario as they inhabit Neverland, Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. They proceed through these worlds to transfer from the Imaginary into the Symbolic as they develop from children to adults. Lacan deems this inevitable. However, that does not stop Carroll’s attempts to prevent Alice from leaving the Imaginary and there are also hints of this in Peter and Wendy. As Karen Coats states in her essay ‘Looking Glass and Neverland’ ‘Lewis Carroll and J.M Barrie have created Alice and Peter Pan to hold a more or less permanent place as signifiers of the modernist desire to preserve the notion of a pristine childhood’ (Coats, 2007: 78). This chapter will explore this as well as Wendy and Alice overcoming the hurdles Wonderland, Looking Glass and Neverland place in front of them, the potential of these worlds being the unconscious of both the characters, castration and the search for the lack and the desire of both to journey into the Symbolic.

Barrie attempts to warn Wendy of the uncertainty of growing up in Peter and Wendy; asking her to be cautious. The efforts to prevent Wendy growing up are made mainly by Mrs Darling; Wendy’s mother. Barrie alludes to motherhood throughout the book and how sometimes the prospect of motherhood is not given enough thought. Wendy faced the issue of existence before she ever faced the issue of growing up. Mr and Mrs Darling had to consider ‘for a week or two after Wendy came [as] it was doubtful whether they would be able to keep her, as she was another mouth to feed’ (Barrie,2008:70). Although the salient issue appears to be that of money, whether Wendy would receive enough attention and love to undergo a successful growing up phase is also a major concern. Barrie drives home a message that parenthood should be scrupulously considered before taking on such a responsibility. The Darling’s seem to have provided enough love and attention to Wendy up to the point where she is ready to journey to the Symbolic. A pivotal moment occurs for Mrs Darling at the beginning of Peter and Wendy where she realises that Wendy has to grow up.

‘One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she picked another      flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “oh why can’t you remain like this for ever!”’ (Barrie, 2008: 69)

Mrs Darling’s realisation that Wendy will eventually grow up is one that fills her with fear as it would with any parent. Parents never want their offspring to grow up wishing them to stay as the reliant small child. This is the period before castration where the mother and child’s unity is whole and the mother has yet to be drawn back to the Other. Barrie uses Mrs Darling as a contrast to Peter’s family situation. The difference between Peter and Wendy is that despite looking similar ages, they are at totally different points in their development. Barrie is hinting at this being because of the presence and absence of the mother. He realises the importance in the mother being present for the subject to have a successful development phase which originates at the mother’s gaze upon the child. Although the presence of Mrs Darling appears to hinder Wendy’s development because of her desire to keep Wendy in the Imaginary, her love, affection and presence will actually ensure Wendy successfully enters the Symbolic.

Lewis Carroll attempts in both Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass to stop Alice’s inevitable passage into the Symbolic in order to prevent her growing up. Carroll wants to ‘subvert the will of the big Other; he wants to arrest her splitting. Having recognized the implications of his own Symbolic castration, he seeks to save her’ (Coats, 2007: 84). Both Wonderland and the Looking Glass are fictional manifestations by Carroll that ‘invert and reverse everything in sight’(Reichertz, 1997: 34) and that try to prevent Alice from growing up by distorting what not only she perceives as being true but also common logic in her quest to reach the Symbolic. Whilst discussing time with the mad hatter Alice asks ‘but what happens when you come to the beginning again?’ (Carroll, 2009: 63). Carroll is trying to create a cyclical nature where ego development is impossible because time in a chronological order suggests growth and progress. He treats time in Wonderland as something that can be manipulated to his advantage and by creating a cyclical experience he is hampering the purpose of time. It is somewhere he can keep Alice without her growing up as long as she is unable to figure out how Wonderland works. Carroll does not just explore the idea of changing the logistics of time but also the make-up of the subject as can be seen when the March Hare suggests ‘suppose we change the subject’ (Carroll, 2009: 64). Here Carroll is proposing that the subject itself can be altered and changed to avoid growing up. He wants to show Alice that ‘growing and aging are not necessary or inevitable; they are merely concessions we make to the version of sanity that plays in the Symbolic’ (Coats, 2007: 88) which he demonstrates by enforcing size changes upon Alice. Carroll whisks Alice away from reality and places her in this unconscious world of the Imaginary where everything she recognises to be true is distorted all in an attempt to prevent Alice from growing up. He is ‘ridiculing the process of growing up which will divide him from Alice.’ (Morton, 1978: 295). Carroll has a clear motive to prevent Alice from growing up where as Barrie simply hints at the dangers of entering the Symbolic.

To understand how Alice and Wendy’s development and the influence of Carroll and Barrie over them during this process, the worlds they inhabit have to be explored. Neverland, Wonderland and the Looking Glass are emblematic of the unconscious. For both girls these unconscious projections seem to set challenges for them to reach the Symbolic. One of the issues that they face is that of memory. Both Wendy and Alice have their memories tested in the dream worlds they find themselves in. Neverland, Wonderland and The Looking Glass are all manifestations of the unconscious that Barrie and Carroll create for their fictional but these fantasy worlds are needed for the characters to gain access to the Symbolic. Adrian Smith in his journal article ‘Wendy’s Story: analytic perspectives on J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy’ says that when the children fall asleep they are ‘crossing into the hinterland of dreams that is the Neverland, the place between consciousness and the unknowable depths of the unconscious’ (2012: 518) sharing a view that these lands are in between places, stepping stones from one place to another where the access to language and the laws of society lie. He also thinks that ‘Neverland is an interior dimension of the mind…that is specifically concerned with the interior dimension of Wendy’s mind’ (Smith, 2012: 518) indicating that it is a form of the unconscious in her pursuit of the Symbolic, not dissimilar to how Looking Glass is an interior dimension of Alice’s mind. Her admittance into the Symbolic is not an easy task though and whilst in Neverland she begins to find her memory compromised when trying to remember her life before it. She begins to see that her younger siblings are forgetting their parents. John ‘remembered his parents vaguely only’ (Barrie, 2008: 136) and Michael ‘was quite willing to believe that [Wendy] was really his mother’ (Barrie, 2008: 136). To try and prevent this she begins testing them on Mrs Darling, however Wendy too, is struggling to remember: ‘By the way, the questions were all written in the past tense. What was the colour of Mother’s eyes, and so on. Wendy, you see, had been forgetting too.’ (Barrie, 2008: 137). Wendy is slowly forgetting her previous life whilst she searches for an entry into the Symbolic. Wendy’s memory loss seems to represent the prolonged period she has spent in Neverland. It is perhaps an indication that she needs to complete her journey and return home before she becomes trapped within the deep depths of her unconscious.

Remembering for Alice becomes difficult too. In Wonderland, her memory being affected is related to her constant size changes and becomes another ploy exercised by Carroll to scare her about development. Donald Rackin discusses how ‘her continuing changes in size represent a variation of the self-identity theme, since to a child differences in size represent definite changes in actual identity.’ (1966: 316) When in conversation with the caterpillar, Alice declares ‘I ca’n’t remember things as I used-and I don’t keep the same size for ten minutes together!’ (Carroll, 2009: 42).Carroll creates a world where he exaggerates the side effects of growing up in an attempt to persuade Alice to stay in the Imaginary. The issue of her memory in Through the Looking Glass would appear to be more of a test, similar to Wendy’s. Alice finds herself entering some magical woods where everyone forgets their name. She becomes panicked when she loses her identity and questions ‘now who am i?’ (Carroll, 2009: 156). She quickly makes her way through the woods and again remembers herself. This is perhaps suggestive of the Subject losing their identity for only a brief moment when they begin to leave the Imaginary and slowly enter the Symbolic. It can be linked to the idea of language dictating meaning and Carroll’s mocking of this. Both Wendy and Alice’s time in Neverland and Through the Looking Glass appears to be a space in between the imaginary and the Symbolic where the beginning of their journey starts in the former but by the end they have entered the latter with the middle consisting of the challenges to get there with uncertainties as to whether the trials and tribulations are imposed by the authors or are the creation of their unconscious.

Lionel Morton in his journal article, ‘Memory in Alice Books’, offers an analysis of the relationship between Carroll and Alice. He discusses how ‘for Carroll nostalgia for childhood is a means of detachment and retreat from the adult world’. (1978: 287) This appears to be the case as Carroll tries desperately to inform Alice how childhood is a far happier place than that of the adult world which is why he wants her to stay there as long as possible before she inevitably grows up. The journal makes claims that Carroll wanted to keep Alice to himself; to ‘cut off [her] memory because Carroll [wanted] Alice Liddell to be cut off from hers and brought into a world he controls’ (1978: 299). It is much more likely that Carroll simply wanted to preserve Alice’s childhood status for a little while longer for him to vicariously revel in nostalgia. Carroll does not want to control Alice. At the most he wants her to remain in the Imaginary and at the least he simply wants her to realise that the adult world is entirely different.

Despite all of the attempted thwarting by Barrie and Carroll as well as the task of acclimatising to their fantasy worlds, Wendy and Alice nevertheless strive to reach the Symbolic in search of the lack after their castration. Due to Mrs Darling becoming distracted by the Other, through attending parties, she realises Wendy and the boys have left too late; ‘Mr and Mrs Darling and Nana rushed into the nursery too late. The birds were flown’. (Barrie, 2008: 101) Wendy, Michael and John all feel as if they are lacking something after they lose their mother to the Other which ends the period of perfect unity between the mother and her children. This results in the boys following ‘Wendy Darling; and her story [which] is that of her emergence from childhood into adolescence.’ (Smith, 2012: 518). The children are described as birds flying the nest; a metaphor usually used to depict the children moving out of their family home and starting a new life. On this occasion it is representative of the children leaving the Imaginary and searching for the Symbolic. They are leaving home in a sense because they will return as different people to when they left. Adrian Smith is under the impression that ‘Mrs Darling is thoughtlessly abandoned by her daughter’ (2012: 519). Wendy does not thoughtlessly abandon her mother. If any abandonment occurs, it is the abandonment of Wendy by her mother. As earlier discussed Mrs Darling becomes distracted by the Other and so Wendy is left to wonder why her mother, who was ever present before, has become less interested in her. This is all natural and necessary according to Lacanian theory which specifies that this castration must occur for the sake of development. Karen Coats agrees as she states that ‘though [the] expulsion is registered as a loss in the Lacanian economy, it also represents a gain-specifically, the gain of a place from which to speak’ (Coats, 1999:118) in which she means the Symbolic. Karen Coats and her journal ‘Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature’ and has been the most useful source because of its Lacanian analysis on children’s literature. It discusses how Carroll and Barrie both create Alice and Peter to relive the nostalgia of their life before the Symbolic. She then goes on to discuss the desire formulated by language in Alice Through the looking Glass which is discussed in this paper and jouissance in Peter and Wendy where she thinks Peter is a dead child. On this occasion this paper would have to disagree. Peter is a child who chooses to remain in Neverland to avoid the Symbolic. He defies logic and Lacanian theory and can do so because he is a fictional character. He at first is admired but eventually his hero turned tragedy status stresses the importance of not remaining in the Imaginary.

In Peter and Wendy, Wendy goes in search of this phallic symbol which she thinks she discovers in the form of Captain James Hook and his iron claw hand; Peter’s arch enemy. It is of no surprise then, that when Wendy encounters Hook, she is not filled with fear but rather fascination.

‘A different treatment was accorded to Wendy, who came last. With ironical politeness Hook raised his hat to her, and, offering her his arm, escorted her to the spot where the others were being gagged. He did it with such an air, he was so frightfully distingue, that she was too fascinated to cry out. She was only a little girl.’(Barrie, 2008: 178)

As the novel reaches its penultimate scene in which Peter and Hook face each other it does also between Wendy and her entry into the Symbolic. The missing piece she is searching for appears to be that of Hooks claw hence why she is fascinated with the villain rather than scared. However, according to Lacan, this missing lack can never be fulfilled as it does not exist and so it is unsurprising when Hook perishes and the deemed phallic symbol is lost forever. The idea of the lack is that it eventually leads to the discovery of the Other and the realisation that no one has this missing piece which leads to the concept of desire and drive. Humans constantly strive to fill this desire despite the impossibility of this. At this moment Wendy realises that there is no way back to full unity and instead she becomes invested in the Other and ready to be a part of the Symbolic realm.

Alice also aims to retrieve something that represents the ‘missing piece’ in ‘Through the Looking Glass’. Her aim is that she would ‘like to be a Queen’ (Carroll, 2009: 144). Being Queen for Alice is the missing piece, the end of the adventure and the entry in the Symbolic all tied into one. It becomes her main desire and links to how her mother figure the Duchess, is distracted by the Name of the Father. The Duchess in Wonderland leaves Alice in order ‘to play croquet with the Queen’ (Carroll, 2009: 55) making Alice feel like she is missing something which she perceives as Queen status. This is much like the situation with Wendy and Mrs Darling who is distracted by going to parties. Karen Coats in the chapter ‘Looking Glasses and Neverlands’ discusses the idea of the phallic symbol using Shel Silversteins ‘The missing piece’. She states that a circle with a wedge taken out of it goes in search of his missing piece and that when he finds his missing piece ‘she is a perfect fit and is willing to be defined as his “missing piece,” so they roll off together. But he notices that with her in place, he rolls too fast to enjoy the journey’ (Coats, 2007: 81). The circle then ‘decides to remove the missing piece, and he rolls lopsidedly off in the opposite direction, again singing the refrain of his search.’ (Coats, 2007: 82). This allegory is metaphorical for how this idea of filling the lack is fantasy because experiencing a feeling that something is missing is imperative to human existence. Wendy sees her perceived phallic symbol destroyed with the death of Hook and Alice is underwhelmed with her position as Queen as she is still treated with no respect or authority. This is exemplified in the ‘Queen Alice’ chapter where Alice, who takes her seat next to the Red and White Queens, is not treated with the same respect they are. She is still spoken down to and has little control over any proceedings. She is not even allowed to invite guests to her own dinner party. The phallic symbol she has found is underwhelming and not at all what she expected. This anti-climax in discovering that the lack cannot be filled leads to both completing their time in their fantasy worlds and results in them being ready to enter the Symbolic.

Both Wendy and Alice’s journey into the Symbolic proves to be a difficult one. They are both faced with interruptions from their creators; Alice especially is conflicted by her want to develop and Carroll’s desire to keep her in the Imaginary for as long as possible. Wonderland seems to be Carroll’s main attempt to keep Alice within the realms of childhood and his ‘interest in the asymmetry between Wonderland and the world beyond it teaches Alice that the symbolic order does not—and cannot—add up.’ (Lane, 2011: 1037) as is explored in chapter three when the influence of language is addressed. Even though Carroll shows Alice that the Symbolic does not make sense it does not stop her wanting to explore it and so she overcomes his best attempts to keep her from growing proving Lacan’s theory that ‘the subject cannot be reduced to [the] imaginary dimension’ (Chiesa, 2007: 13). Wendy’s entry into the Symbolic is without as much interference but still is testing in that it propels her into a role of motherhood and responsibility. Neverland and Through the Looking glass become places where both Alice and Wendy realise they are ready to enter the Symbolic. It is also where they come to learn that the lack they thought they had to recover is non-existent and in doing this they discover the Other. Both manage to manoeuvre their way from the Imaginary and into the Symbolic completing a successful ego development.


An introduction to ‘The authors of Peter and Wendy and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass attempt to prevent Jacques Lacan’s theory of development with an overall intention to avoid adulthood.’

Peter and Wendy, Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass are well revered children’s books that on the surface represent adventure and innocence that entertain children and adults alike. However, if they are analysed through a Lacanian lens they are revealed to have a darker undertone. Victorian fantasy literature was aimed at both children and adults and varied across different sub genres such as nonsense, sensationalist and crime. Lecercle in his book ‘Philosophy of nonsense: the intuitions of Victorian nonsense literature’ explores the motivation for nonsense literature

The deep-seated need for meaning, which nonsense texts deliberately frustrate in order to whet it, will be accounted for in terms of the non-transparency of language, of the incapacity of natural languages reasonably to fulfil their allotted task of expression and communication’ (Lecercle, 2012: 3).

Alice and Peter inhabit fantasy worlds that follow the genre of nonsense Victorian children’s literature. Nonsense literature was and still is extremely popular proven with the publications of new editions and film adaptations of the texts being looked at in this paper. These three novels explicitly tackle how turning into an adult is inevitable but at the same time something negative which should be prevented for as long as possible. They attempt to preserve childhood in a place that will exist forever and will avoid the conventions of time and meaning. The desire to prevent adulthood can be linked to French philosopher Jacques Lacan’s theory on development.

Lacan is a philosopher that has often been overlooked and excluded when critics engage with critical theory. This defines most of his psychoanalytical career where without going in to too much detail, Lacan often found himself on the outside of popular groups of psychoanalytical theory, being denied professional recognition by the International Psychoanalytical Association for example, because of his seductive influence over his students. Most of his teachings were in the form of seminars and very little of his work is first hand apart from Ecrits A Selection; his only notable published work. However, most of his seminars have been published over the years giving an insight into his theory. Influenced by many philosophers such as Claude-Levi Strauss who worked on the theory of structuralism, Andre Breton, the founder of structuralism, and Ferdinand de Saussure who investigated semiotics, Lacan is perhaps most overshadowed by his predecessor and arguably biggest influence, Sigmund Freud, the leading philosopher in psychoanalysis. Many children’s literature including Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass and Peter and Wendy have been analysed using Freud but there a fewer instances of a Lacanian interpretation mainly because of Freud’s popularity. This paper will therefore explore the following statement:

‘The authors of Peter and Wendy and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass attempt to prevent Jacques Lacan’s theory of development with an overall intention to avoid adulthood.’

This statement requires an introduction to some Lacanian theory. The mirror stage is the first part of Lacanian development. This is where the subject first becomes aware of identification and that they are themselves rather than something else. This realisation comes from a series of reflections in mirror objects but originally occurs as a reflection from the mother’s gaze. The child originally sees itself as a fragmented image that has something missing. However, after bonding with the mother, the child begins to love the self-image encouraging a type of narcissism and feels whole after developing what is perceived as an unbreakable union with the mother. Lacan ‘regards the function of the mirror-stage as a particular case of the function of the imago, which is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality’ (1977: 4). This initial phase is to introduce the subject to the world and make them aware that they exist and that society exists.

The relationship between mother and child is whole at this point and looks set to remain that way. However, before the child, the mother was dictated to by the Other and this reoccurs eventually after the child is born. The bond then becomes broken and the child becomes aware that the Other has something that it does not; otherwise known as the phallic symbol. This is known as castration. The child goes in search for the lack, or the manqué as referred to by Lacan, in an attempt to re-establish the bond between itself and the mother and this is where the concept of desire is introduced. Lemaire, in her book ‘Jacques Lacan’ enforces this point as she says ‘desire is the successor to the essential lack lived by the child separated from its mother’ (1977: 162). Lacan states this in Ecrits ‘If the desire of the mother is the phallus, the child wishes to be the phallus in order to satisfy that desire’ (Lacan, 1977: 289). After searching for the phallus, which the child believes will restore the unity between themselves and their parent, they discover that the missing piece does not exist and that everyone has a lack including the Other. They become attracted to the Other and finally become inducted into the Symbolic. The Symbolic, ‘the order which gives man his grandeur and his supremacy over the animal’ (Lemaire, 1977: 176), is the final destination for the Subject where the grasping of language and societal laws lies which then become the dictator of the individual.

In chapter one, there will be a comparison of the two female protagonists, Wendy and Alice, and their journey from the Imaginary to the Symbolic through their respective fantasy worlds. Both seemingly have a desire to reach the Other in order to locate their sought after phallic symbol which then turns into a desire to become a part of the Other after they discover the lack does not exist. Wonderland, Neverland and Through the Looking Glass all challenge Wendy and Alice in their quest to reach the symbolic. Neverland and the Lost Boys that inhabit it try to keep Wendy there forever to be their mother, Wonderland tries to discourage Alice from seeking development by introducing her to and sometimes exaggerating the possible effects of growing up and The Looking Glass tries to distract Alice to stop her reaching her goal of the Symbolic. Peter’s refusal to entertain Lacanian development, how he does this and whether remaining in the Imaginary is possible without it being detrimental to the Subject will be looked at in chapter two. The final chapter looks more closely at and compares how language creates order in society and disorder in Carroll’s fantasy worlds. He uses nonsensical phrases to show how meaning can never be a universal certainty and instead is dependent on the individual which leads to the breakdown and misrecognition of conversations. The chapter will also look at how power in Wonderland and Looking Glass is dependent on the ability to control language.


Is ‘The Island of Lost Souls’ a reliable representation of ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau’? Reviewing the first film adaptation of H.G Wells famous novel.

This review will look at how H.G Wells’ novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, written in 1896, was adapted into a cinema screen portrayal in 1932. The film directed by Erle C Kenton was met with critical acclaim and is still revered as the closest portrayal to the actual novel today. I have chosen to review the first movie portrayal because it is deemed as the best effort in reflecting the novel and the novel has ecological themes running through it that include human’s position in comparison to animals and to the rest of nature and how we often adopt the role of being Earth’s God. Wells provides voice for all Victorian society that struggled with the theory of evolution with one of its side effects being the dismissal of humans as being a special entity separate from other living beings. I will look at how the two compare including what the film misses and the impact of these missing scenes, the ecological elements in both and whether the film delivers on the deeper ecological undertones and whether I thought the adaptation did the novel justice.

The Island of Lost Souls lacks the kind of ecological content that appears throughout the novel. The film begins with Edward ‘Parker’, his name is changed from Prendick, being rescued. Although Edward has apparently been lost at sea, his appearance does not seem to reflect this. Animals on board the ship are caged and unhappy, the first example of ecological themes in the film. During this scene Edward learns that Dr Moreau is the owner of the animal shipment and discovers the beast people. Edward is involved in a fight with the Captain resulting in Edward leaving the boat and joining Moreau on the Island. As part of Moreau’s quest to vivisect an animal and make it the perfect human he tries to set up Lota, a black panther turned woman and Edward in a romantic sense to discern whether Lota can be attracted to another human. Whilst spending time with Lota Edward discovers the house of pain and becomes afraid that Moreau is vivisecting humans. He is made aware by Moreau that it is not human vivisection but just animals. Edward’s wife-to-be, Ruth Thomas and Captain Donahue journey to the island in an attempt to rescue Edward. That night proves to be an eerie and fatal one. Montgomery shows his first signs of being dissatisfied with Moreau and decides to help the rest leave the island. Moreau tries to prevent this by having one of his creations kill Captain Donahue. The killing of Donahue compromises ‘not to spill blood, that is the law’ (Kenton, Beast people: 1932) rendering the rules they live by meaningless. This results in the beast people’s rebellion and killing of their torturer Moreau in the house of pain whilst the others escape. Lota returns to her animalistic ways and kills one of the beast people that is gaining on the escapee party. This then leads to her death leaving just Edward, Ruth and Montgomery to escape. The island is burnt down and no trace of their existence remains.

The novel contains key scenes that are neglected in the film. The trauma Edward faces being lost at sea is omitted. This initial event in the book explores the reliability of the narration which is vital to how much we as the reader believe the events that take place. The characterisation of Edward is changed as well as in the novel Edward is not a Hollywood hero but instead fragile, representative of a ghostly figure with his hand ‘so thin that it looked like a dirty skin-purse full of loose bones’ (Wells, 2015: 102). His appearance in the novel accentuates his vulnerability which in turn, relates him to the beast people. His heroic demeanour in the film distances him from this. The film does not capture the turmoil Edward faces between science and ethics. Edward’s first thoughts seem to be accepting of Moreau’s work. He expresses his dismay at Moreau being outcast because of his experiments in England stating that ‘it was not the first time that conscience has turned against the methods of research’ (Wells, 2015: 453). However, as the novel persists and Edward’s interaction with the beast people increases he has a moral epiphany that occurs ‘like a wave across [his] mind… of the unspeakable aimlessness of things upon the island’ (Wells, 2015: 1362). This conflict between science and ethics undercuts the deontological argument of something being intrinsically right or wrong as Edward seemingly advocates torture of animals as ‘natural’ and a way of furthering science but also condemns experimentation on evolution as pointless. His eventual feeling about the natural world sees him expressing that ‘before they had been beasts, their instincts fitly adapted to their surroundings, and happy as living things may be’ (Wells, 2015: 1370) suggesting that the environment should not be tampered with.

Wells’ intentions for the novel are not mirrored in the film. Wells intends to deliver a confused argument about ethics versus science. in the Island of Doctor Moreau Wells ‘warns of the dangers of scientific overreaching and suggests the ineffectuality of human attempts to intervene in evolutionary processes’ (Alt, 2014: 34) Wells himself had a scientific background and like Edward Prendick ‘had been the student of the great biologist and evolutionist Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s disciple, friend, and champion’ (Glendening, 2007: 572). However, Wells became increasingly worried about the potential of degeneration and human’s interference with nature. John Glendening talks about the confusion that Wells experiences over science versus ethics as ‘the unstable interpenetration of the cultural and the natural, the human and the animal, the moral and the amoral comprises a major area of incertitude in Wells’s novel’ (2002: 576). The fact that Well’s intentions and feelings of confusion are not echoed in the film damages its ability to be a reliable representation of the novel.

An area where the film does reflect the intentions of the novel are with the portrayal of Dr Moreau.. His shadowy presence throughout due to the camera work capturing him in conflicting lights gives him this lofty presence that accompanies his claims to be God and his evil intentions.


Charles Laughton, the actor who plays Dr Moreau, does an excellent job in portraying this maniacal/genius character that feels no remorse and believes in the human cause being the only cause as he demonstrates a god like hold upon his beast people. Moreau represents the ecologist’s enemy as he thinks that the human form is the only being that is important. He expresses this when he says in the novel ‘the human form that appeals to the artistic form that appeals to the turn artistic turn of the mind more powerfully than any animal shape can’ (Wells, 2015:1018). His obsession to make the perfect human is seen in the film as well as he desperately tries to prove that Lota is fully human by trying to encourage her and Edward to share human emotions of attraction. When her animalistic claws begin to show themselves again, he is filled with despair and anger at his own failings. One of the more famous lines from the film is ‘do you know what it means to feel like God?’ (Moreau, director: 1932) The God complex that is established in both novel and film is a social critique of the human thinking it is above all other living forms but his eventual demise is proof that all living things in the natural world are equal. Moreau’s flippant attitude towards pain is highlighted in the film as well. After Edward professes his disdain towards the animals being vivisected ‘poor, tortured creatures’ (director, 1932) he is met with ‘what does that matter?’ (Moreau, director: 1932) which emphasises Moreau’s willingness to ignore ethics or morality in order for science to progress. This is reiterated in the novel when Moreau asserts that ‘Pain is simply our intrinsic medical adviser to warn us and stimulate us’ (Wells, 2015: 1034). Moreau’s character is given more attention in the film as he is set up as the ultimate villain. He transforms from a crazy scientist to a deluded dictator with a God complex that sees his compliant followers turn on him in his most intimidating tool-the house of pain.


The attention paid to Moreau means that one of the key characters in the novel is given a lot less attention in the cinematic version. In the novel he is portrayed as a complex character that feels an allegiance to Moreau but at the same time feels sympathy for the beast people. In the film adaptation we see Montgomery but rarely hear him. He seems to be the one that is worried about Edward’s involvement but apart from that finds him an irrelevant character that just happens to be an acquaintance of Moreau. The film instead chooses to set up a direct hero versus villain in Edward versus Moreau. However, with this we miss the friendship between Montgomery and Edward, where the former always looks out for the latter. We miss Montgomery’s conflict in morality as Edward perceives that ‘he had a sneaking kindness for some of the metamorphosed brutes, a vicious sympathy with some of their ways’ (Wells, 2015: 1177). Montgomery is perhaps most representative of the average human; ethically aware but not with enough care to make a change instead following someone else’s example. His mixed emotion towards the Island is in conjunction with the acceptance of torture but the thought that evolutionary experiment is pointless. Montgomery does become more prominent at the end of the film when he takes sides and chooses the morally enlightened side that choose to leave the island. He could not get away with this in the novel because his involvement in vivisecting and creating the beast people is much more pronounced leaving him ultimately on the side of the villain despite his reservations. He, like Moreau, ends up dead.

The biggest and most obvious change in the film adaptation is the inclusion of Lotar. The inclusion of Lota changes the whole dynamics of the story by creating a romantic twist that consumes the film and takes away from the societal importance in critiquing man’s approach to nature. The first time we encounter Lota it becomes blatantly clear that she is not like the other beast people.

From the pictures above, it can clearly be seen how ridiculous the black panther woman is. She might be Moreau’s best piece of work but she does not resemble an animal in any capacity apart from the poor looking claws that essentially just look like overgrown nails. I understand the motives to create a film that had a direct contrast between hero and villain with the attractive woman’s best interests at stake but I think it severely diminishes the purpose of the story. This Hollywood tainted plot inclusion means that our attention becomes focused on what the outcome of the love triangle between Edward, Ruth and Lota will be instead of the moral implications that The Island of Dr Moreau intended on producing. We go from having no love interest in the novel to two in the film which feels like an injustice to the Wells’ intentions.

Although The Island of Lost Souls is an entertaining cinematic watch that has horror, ego-maniacs, romance and a generally contorted and twisted feeling it does not delve deep enough into the social critique that Wells’ novel offers. A hard feat to achieve in just fifty seven minutes, the film largely skips over ecological themes that are imperative to the development of the story. We do not see enough character development with only Moreau being someone we can invest time in and who we come to truly fear because of his obsession with power. Richard Arlen misinterprets Edward Parker who becomes a stereotypical Hollywood hero who solves problems with a fist fight and who has apparently not felt any repercussions to being lost at sea without any supplies. Montgomery is not given enough screen time and his friendship with Edward is totally dismissed as they barely interact throughout. The beast people come across as humorous rather than distorted freaks and again do not receive enough attention. There is no cave scene where Edward briefly lives with the beasts and learns their laws and there is only one notable encounter between human and beast which comes as a surprise because unlike the novel there is no build-up of tension between the two. The addition of Lota, Ruth and Captain Donahue does nothing but diminish the plot as they do not aid any ecological or societal critique or discussion. Overall, the film adaptation does not do the novel justice because of its choice to focus on Edward, Moreau and Lota instead of the conflict and interaction between humans and nature.




E C Kenton (1932). The Island of Lost Souls retrieved from

Gerry Canavan, & Kim Stanley Robinson. (2014). Green planets: Ecology and science fiction Wesleyan University Press. Retrieved from

Glendening, J. (2002). “Green confusion”: Evolution and entanglement in h. g. wells’s the island of doctor moreau. Victorian Literature and Culture, 30(2), 571-597. doi:10.1017/S1060150302302109h

Wells, H.G. (2015). The Island of Doctor Moreau. [kindle edition]. Retrieved from


Critically evaluate Postmodernity and Ideology, and explore their usefulness and their limitations in reading a literary text.

Jean Francois Lyotard and his ‘The Post Modern Condition’ written in 1979 analysed how knowledge is created by the state and perceived by the people. It concerned itself with how knowledge is legitimised and expressed how the era of the grand narrative was in turmoil. In this essay he discusses how all culture and knowledge are inevitably bound by the state and how he seeks to expose this. He thinks the breakdown of a single, overriding narrative is a step forward and wants a ‘cut off from any unifying frameworks of belief’ (Butler, 2002: 60), instead vying for local reforms. Theodor Adorno was a Marxist critic devoted to high aesthetic art and the unity of society. Immediately there is a conflict in theories between Lyotard and Adorno. Adorno in his essay ‘Aesthetics and Politics’ thinks that texts should not be overtly political but instead be a genuine work of art which sufficiently criticise the bad totalities of society believing that high aesthetics of art might awaken the victim of the culture industry from conformism.

The literary text that both these theories will be applied to is ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. Published just after World War Two, it was a political satire merged with an allegory fable that criticised Stalin’s Russia and acted as a wider criticism of state control.  Orwell shared a familiar twentieth century hope of a socialist revolution. He thought that those for who revolutions were intended were ‘more often victims than beneficiaries’ (Bradbury, 2000: xiv) and wanted to encourage a revolution that would create social unity and freedom. Application of Lyotard and Adorno to ‘Animal Farm’ proves to be useful and limited.  This essay will look at Lyotard’s take on grand narratives, the ‘spirit of life’ notion and suspicion towards the state and Adorno’s views on revolution, aesthetics and committed art.

Lyotard takes issue with the grand narrative that he believes dictates peoples’ lives. In his ‘Postmodern Condition’ essay he suggests that

‘The state resorts to the narrative for freedom every time it assumes direct control over the training of the ‘people’ under the name of the ‘nation’, in order to point them down the path of progress’  (Easthope and McGowan, 2004: p206)

This is the idea that the state dangles the promise of freedom in front of people in order to control them. Their suggestions on the surface seem to be beneficial but they actually hinder true freedom. This features in Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’. When proposing the idea of the windmill, Snowball claims that after the windmill is built ‘so much labour would be saved that the animals would only need to work three days a week’(Orwell, 2000: p37). This never comes to fruition but the promise of less work is a ploy used by Snowball to try and gain votes. Another example of the grand narrative being deployed by state control is the propaganda used by Napoleon and Squealer against Snowball. After Snowball is excommunicated, he is blamed for all the problems on Animal farm. After the windmill is destroyed Napoleon asks ‘Do you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our windmill?’ (Orwell, 2000: p52) and this rhetorical question is immediately answered with ‘SNOWBALL!’ (Orwell, 2000: p52) This is a meta-narrative used by the pigs to convince other animals that they are not the enemy but the protectors. It causes the animals to think that they are in the best scenario possible under such leadership; a metaphor for the state-people relationship.

Lyotard and his attack on grand narratives includes the narrative of Marxism. He believed that Marxist revolutions had failed, an idea shared by Adorno as well, but he differed in thinking that a social unity was no longer the ideal progression to freedom. Orwell shared this view that grand narratives were not working and expressed this in ‘Animal Farm’ as Clover confesses that ‘she did not know why-they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind’ (Orwell, 2000: p64) The revolution had failed. It had all gone wrong and violent revolutions were clearly not the answer to humanities problem of acquiring freedom. The pigs ‘fought to perpetuate themselves as opposed to the interests of those whom the revolution was meant to serve’ (Bradbury, 2000: pXIV). However, Orwell still wanted to ‘reconstruct society’ (Bradbury, 2000: pXIV) and achieve true freedom disagreeing with Lyotard’s micro politics ideal. In ‘Animal Farm’, although it points out the repercussions of meta-narratives, it shows no sign of them ending with the pigs still very much in charge. Grand narratives still exist and Lyotard’s opinion that they are collapsing seems to be flawed. Even today people are ‘willing to kill one another in the name of grand narratives every day’ (Butler, 2002: 14) in the form of religion and so in this respect Lyotard’s theory seems to be limited.

Adorno and Orwell both agreed that social unity was progression for humanity, unlike Lyotard, but also agreed that violent revolution was jaded.  Adorno was a controversial Marxist because of his views on the Marxist revolution and modernist literature. He and Lukacs, a fellow Marxist, held opposing views on the progression of society. Lukacs thought that class consciousness and consequent proletariat rising was still imperative in defeating capitalism. However, Adorno recognised that the violent uprisings had so far failed and thought a new direction was needed. He sided with the idea of a Marxist Utopia that did not believe in any form of class struggle to be necessary for socialism to emerge. They thought that education and thinking was a greater resistance to the state.  Adorno’s ‘commitment to education rather than direct political action as a means of combating the legacy of fascism’ (Cook, 2008: p133) echoes this and emphasises his controversy. Adorno even went as far to say that the opposition to a utopia were not only ‘merely misguided’ (Jay, 1984: 64) but ‘potentially pernicious as well’ (Jay, 1984: 64). Orwell seems to have shared a similar view to Adorno. The whole of ‘Animal Farm’ is a metaphor for the failure of ‘modern mass revolutions, and the drive inside them toward totalitarianism’ (Bradbury, 2000: viii). The pigs become human; the rebels become totalitarian.

A major criticism of Adorno and Lyotard is that they are both able to point out the flaws of critical theory but do not have any ideas of progress themselves. Gehard Schweppenhauser discusses in his book ‘Theodor Adorno: An introduction’ on page 77 how ‘Adorno gives us no detailed picture of utopia. He refuses to conjure up images of the better condition’. Adorno expresses his dissatisfaction with Marxist revolution but does not give any real indication on how to solve this other than education which proves to be rather vague. Lyotard is similarly unable to provide an answer to his problem with the legitimation and delegitimation of knowledge. Not just Lyotard but all post modernists are considered to be ‘terrible constructors’ (Butler, 2002: 116) and this could be because they are ‘by and large pessimists, many of them haunted by lost revolutionary hopes’ (Butler, 2002: 114). Lyotard suggests ‘supervention of a micropolitics which will attend to the local and the specific without recourse to some grand programme’ (Docherty, 2006: 4) but he focuses on the criticism of grand narratives rather than the benefits of local reforms. ‘Animal Farm’ follows this example as well as it criticises the revolutionary process and the regime in place after such resolution but it does not give an example of a better scenario.

Adorno was of the opinion that modernist works of literature should be of the highest aesthetic standard. He thought that these writings would enlighten those that could interpret them and as a result, awaken themselves to the capitalist, state-controlled reality. He was an advocate of the modernist writers Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka who’s work provided an ‘inescapability [that] [compelled] the change of attitude which committed works merely demanded’ (Adorno, 2007: p191) Adorno expanded on Jean Paul Sartre’s committed concept which specified that all literature has a committed social function, by saying that works of literature should instead be autonomous; that is to say free of political or social influence. Adorno commented on the difference saying that ‘when literary works no longer speak as though they were reporting fact, hairs start to bristle’ (Adorno, 2007: p180). He believed that literature should be an aesthetic masterpiece rather than a political message. This is where Adorno and Lukacs clash the most. Adorno supported the modernist, autonomous style of literature where as Lukacs supported the more traditional Marxist view of realist, committed work. The modernist novel explored the inner self portraying real life and the isolation of an individual from society. Realist novels expressed people’s everyday lives but focused on the character and were without any decorative language. Lukacs in the preface to his ‘The Theory of the Novel’, suggests that Adorno has ‘taken residence in the Grand Hotel Abyss…on the edge of the abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity’ (Lukacs, 1974: p22) essentially calling Adorno an elitist who betrayed the political implications of his own work.

‘Animal Farm’ is not a typical modernist novel drawing on classic fable allegories. Orwell describes himself as political writer rather than a novelist and his ‘novel’ is a blatant piece of political work and therefore could be considered committed. It is certainly not a piece of high aesthetic art that creates itself for art’s sake with Orwell perfecting his ‘plain style [and] no-nonsense manner’ (Bradbury, 2000: x) creating a sound of ‘truth frankly expressing itself’ (Bradbury, 2000: x). Orwell seems to representing the characteristics of the committed novel. However, Orwell was not trying to create great piece of art stating that ‘political commitment is the enemy of self-expression and great art’ (Bounds, 2009: p86). In addition to this he also insisted that

‘all works of literature are intrinsically political and have definite political effects. On the other hand, suspicious of the excessively partisan approach of some of his Marxist contemporaries, he also warned that certain types of political commitment can end up having a disastrous effect both on literary criticism and on literature itself’ (Bounds, 2009: p86)

With this he seems to be a compromise between Adorno and Lukacs. He insists that all literature has a political nature; it is inevitable but he is suspicious of overtly political texts that damage literature. Orwell’s fable has to be matter of fact and avoidant of high aesthetics to be consistent with its format and so in this respect Adorno could not really criticise it for this. Also, Orwell makes clear that he was not trying to create a piece of great art and so again Adorno would find it difficult to criticise ‘Animal Farm’. The novel still does inspire people to regain their class consciousness.

Orwell was a writer of suspicion; his greatest suspicion was that of the state and their influence of society. Lyotard in his essay also has suspicions about the state and how they legitimise knowledge. He feels as if political legitimation concerns itself with being just before it does truth resulting in a ‘final analysis [lying] outside the realm of scientific knowledge’ (Easthope and McGowan, 2004: p207) suggesting that the information the state relays to the public is always concerned with a moral just rather than an absolute truth. However, he also says that science has its own truths which ‘continually renews itself on its own, with no constraint or determined goal whatsoever’ (Easthope and McGowan, 2004: 207) meaning that science continually works to provide truth. It has not aligned itself with this ‘just’ nature of the state. This contradiction, Lyotard says, calls for a notion he addresses as ‘the spirit of life’ which is a single, three fold aspiration:

‘that of deriving everything from an original principle (scientific activity), that of relating everything to an ideal (ethical and social practice) and that of unifying this principle and this ideal in a single idea (ensuring the scientific search for true causes always coincides with the pursuit of just ends in moral and political life).’ (Easthope and McGowan, 2004: P207)

Lyotard believes that the state takes the truthful knowledge from science and combines this with the intention of it being politically and socially just and then they release this one combined piece of information to the public. ‘Animal Farm’ echoes this idea in chapter three when Squealer is explaining to the rest of the farm why all the apples and milk was going to the pigs:

‘Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organization of this farm depends on us.’ (Orwell, 2000: p25)

The pigs take information produced by science about the health benefits of apples and milk and manipulate it to justify their possession of all the apples and milk. They even go as far as pretending that they do not like them and this reasoning along, with the apparent necessity to ensure the pigs health, is enough to convince the rest of the farm that this is a just and truthful reason. The spirit of life concept highlights how easy it is for the state to manipulate the scientific truth into information that benefits them instead of the people. Linking back to the idea of the grand narrative alongside this idea of state control is a direct response to the work of Immanuel Kant; the ambassador for the modernity movement with his theory of enlightenment. Kant’s idea, referred to as ‘the age of reason’, placed the rational human being at the centre of society which he thought should have resulted in the struggle for democracy and discoveries in science. However, his idea did not encompass true freedom. Instead it was criticised for essentially saying argue but obey. The grand narrative and the spirit of life concept both stem from the idea of argue but obey and this is where Lyotard takes issue with Kant; this is what his attack is based upon. Lyotard wants the freedom that Kant began to realise but without the rules and restraints. Disagreeing with both Kant and Adorno in terms of Aesthetics, Lyotard states that ‘the aesthetics of the beautiful isn’t the aesthetics of truth’ (Benjamin, 1992: p3) and does not see the relationship between aesthetics and freedom.

Lyotard and Adorno both seem very capable of criticising the state and this is why applying their theories to ‘Animal Farm’ works so well. Lyotard attacks how grand narratives prevent the freedom of the people and instead ensure that the people in charge stay in such a powerful position. Even when the narrative is Marxist revolution, someone always leads the rebellion and ends up in charge of the state creating a whole new narrative that dictates the way people live. Adorno is more relevant when analysing ‘Animal Farm’ mainly because Orwell was ‘a socialist, a leftist, a Marxist, who sought to encourage social progress and equality’ (Roney, 2002: p18) much like Adorno who wanted a different approach to achieving freedom instead of the seemingly dated idea of violent revolution and overthrowing of the leaders by the people. Essentially, all three writers wanted to see society progress and move away from state control and all three were left wing socialists. The main difference was their stance on unity. All three continue to be influential today with their unique ideas although it could be argued that none of their ideas in ending state control and discovering freedom has come true and therefore, their works are slightly diminished. However, they still provide inspiration in the search for freedom.


Adorno, Theodor W. (2007) – Aesthetics and politics. London: Verso

Benjamin, A. (1992). Judging lyotard Routledge Ltd.

Butler, Christopher (2002). Postmodernism: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cook, D. (2008). Theodor adorno: Key concepts Acumen Publishing.

Docherty, Thomas (1993). Postmodernism: a reader. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf

Easthope, Antony; McGowan, Kate (2004), 2nd ed. A critical and cultural theory reader. Maidenhead: Open University Press

Engelhard, K., & Dudley, W. (2014). Immanuel kant: Key concepts Routledge.

Jay, Martin (1984)- Adorno. London: Fontana

Orwell, George; Bradbury Malcolm (2000). Animal Farm. UK:  Penguin Modern Classics

Philip Bounds. (2009). Orwell and marxism: The political and cultural thinking of George Orwell international library of cultural studies 4 Ib Tauris & Co Ltd.

Roney, S. K. (2002). Postmodernist prose and George Orwell. Academic Questions, 15(2), 13-23. doi:10.1007/s12129-002-1071-6

Schweppenhauser, Gerhard (2009) – Theodor W. Adorno: an introduction. Durham: Duke University Press

Does Romantic poetry, paying particular attention to Wordsworth and Clare and selected poems, help or hinder eco-criticism in the 21st century?


The literature movement known as the Romantic period in eighteenth century Europe has always been closely linked to environmentalism even before the term and study of nature officially existed. As a reaction to the industrial revolution, the aristocratic dominance of the age of enlightenment and the scientific rationalisation of nature, Romanticism focused on emotion, individualism and nature with its tradition having always been considered to offer ‘a rich and varied set of responses to the natural world.’ (Mckusick, 2000:11) This is perhaps the reason that in eco-criticism today, the Romantic period has ‘proven to be a fertile and varied ground for eco-critical revisionism.’ (Buell, 2005:3) Romanticism raised awareness for the natural cause which encouraged people to appreciate and admire it. However, it is of concern to many environmentalists how useful Romanticism is in eco-critical revisionism due to a belief that Romantic writings were self-important instead of a real concern for the natural cause. William Wordsworth and John Clare were two Romantic poets that both addressed nature as the salient issue in their poetry as can be seen in the poems being analysed in this essay:’ To a Butterfly’ and ‘A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ by Wordsworth and ‘The Fallen Elm’ and ‘The Badger’  by Clare. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the idea that Wordsworth’s poems hinder eco-criticism whereas Clare helps. Important areas to debate are as follows: why Wordsworth and Clare have been chosen in particular and their contrasting approaches to Romantic poetry. Leading on from this, the focus will fall upon Schiller’s theory of sentiment and naivety and how being labelled as one or the other has impacted eco-criticism. The analysis will continue onto the influence of the sublime and the beautiful, theories developed by Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant.

Wordsworth and Clare had differing backgrounds which in turn, led to differing poetic styles and therefore, different portrayals of nature. Wordsworth, regarded as the more ‘famous’ poet of the two, came from a relatively wealthy background as the son of a legal representative and was educated at Cambridge. He had a particular penchant for nature and spent his time observing ‘beautiful’ landscapes such as his beloved home; the Lake District. He is considered to be one of the founders of human ecology after the publishing of Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude in 1798 in which the Romantic Movement is deemed to have officially started.  Wordsworth can be praised from an ecological stand point for his ability to achieve a ‘sense of participation that enables the reader to become vicariously invested in the world of the poem.’ (Mckusick, 2000:56). This encouraged people to become aware of the non-human world and to re-establish their connection with nature. Wordsworth had a genuine love for the natural world with mentions of ‘lofty cliffs’ (Worsdworth, 1798) and ‘mountain springs’ (Wordsworth, 1798) and an infinite amount of superlatives to laud upon nature. He ‘consistently opposed the “development” and “improvement” of rural landscapes’ (Mckusick, 2000:65) showing that he was passionate about nature. However, the ‘nature that Wordsworth valorises is not the nature that contemporary environmentalists seek to protect.’ (Gerrard, 2012: 48) Wordsworth’s chosen landscapes were often the most glamorous, ‘picturesque’ spots of nature which concentrated on the sublime rather than the less glamorous fens, bogs and marshes which suffered real endangerment but which were ignored because of the popularising of aesthetic nature. Wordsworth’s sublime, as well as being glamorised, became about the passions and thrills caused by such scenery and so became a self-exploration leading many environmentalists to think Wordsworth does more to hinder than help.

In comparison, Clare, the son of a farmer, was an agricultural worker in the town of Helpston who ‘witnessed the changes in land wrought by parliamentary enclosure’ (Bate, 2011:2643). Known as the ‘green man in London’ (Bate, 2003:239) after his publisher was based there, Clare’s poetry concerned itself with the welfare of nature, the cruelness of mankind and how the non-human and human world can build a relationship based on equality instead of subjectivity and objectivity. The main motive behind most of Clare’s writings was the Act of Parliament for the enclosure of Helpston which was passed in 1809 and came to fruition in 1820. Clare felt a lot of anger towards the powers in charge, the propaganda and lies the local people of Helpston were fed and the endangerment of the land and animals as a result of this. His experiences of enclosure and the pain caused by seeing the natural world around him being compromised and endangered meant that he ‘shared many of the insights of the modern green movement’ (Gerrard, 2012: 51) as the protests that environmentalists have today were shared by Clare in the nineteenth century. From his choice to become a writer of protest came an ethos ‘that man does not own the earth and is not entitled to do whatever he likes with it’(Gerrard, 2012:51) and the non-human world is in fact equal to humanity and should be treated so. Clare through the use of harsh reality, non-emotive language and a real anger and resentment towards the enclosures of Helpston seemed to have a much more real cause for the protection of nature suggesting that he helps modern day eco criticism.

Friedrich Schiller’s 1795 paper ‘On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry’ proposed a theory which categorised poets into one of two poetic relationships with the world. The naïve writer delivers a direct and real representation of nature ‘confining themselves to copying reality’ (Schiller, 1795). The sentimental on the other hand, is self-reflective and often ‘forsakes reality in order to rise to the world of ideas and command his material and transcend nature’ (Schiller, 1795). Schiller associated ‘the naïve with the realist and the sentimental with the idealist’ (Sychrava, 1989:2). Sentimentalism allowed writers to link human’s spirituality to the non-human ‘combining two necessary goods: moral reason and individual emotion’ (Bell, 2012:16). It is almost a way of convincing mankind of the ‘natural goodness of human affections’ (Bell, 2012:11) in terms of their actions and treatment of each other and the non-human. The sentimental writer is one that uses nature to improve humanity instead of seeking to protect it making the relationship between human and non-human one of gain and selfishness distancing them from eco-criticism today. The naïve writer, as oppose to this, promotes a sense of innocence. There is no self-reflection or deeper philosophical thoughts on how mankind can improve their moral being. There is no gain from nature. Instead the naïve writer is purely descriptive; there is no agenda but instead a real commentary on the non-human world indicating a passion to establish a relationship with and protect nature. Norman Kasper thought that ‘the innocent character of the naïve is thus not merely understood as an aesthetic but as an intellectual value’ (Kasper, 2012:115) because with their choice to avoid self-reflection they deliver a much more powerful message regarding the importance of the natural world.

The sentimental poet requires a thought process that extends on their observational skills. Wordsworth did exactly this. He turned the observation of nature into a self-reflection of how nature could be used to improve the human mind. Famous philosopher Descartes declared that ‘I think, therefore I am’ (Bate, 2011:2375). Wordsworth applies this to his work and ‘with this move, the mind and its processes become the starting point of philosophy; the rest of nature becomes separate and secondary’ (Bate, 2011:2375). Through engaging in self-reflection and consciously thinking about the effect of the natural world on the human mind Wordsworth actually distances himself from nature as it becomes an afterthought to his revelations. In ‘a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey’ Wordsworth uses the landscape around him for ‘tranquil restoration’ (Wordsworth, 1798) pointing towards the poem becoming about the sustainability of the human mind rather than the sustainability of nature. Wordsworth uses the landscape to heal from the ‘weariness’ (Wordsworth, 1798) caused by the industrial revolution and urbanisation of towns and cities. In this respect he is condemning the industrial revolution but because of the effects it has had on his health rather than the health of nature. The landscape has provided nostalgia for Wordsworth as he looks out at it and he hopes the new memories he’s making at that moment will help him in future times as he declares

‘Thy memory be a dwelling place

For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! Then,

If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,

Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts

Of tender joy wilt thou remember me’. (Wordsworth, 1798)

He goes beyond detailing nature and explores the ‘Inter-relatedness of perception and creation and mediation on the networks which link mental and environmental space.’ (Bate, 2011:2572) Wordsworth wants to use the memory of nature to provide joy if fear or pain invades his thoughts. He is using nature for the sensations it provides; the sweet sounds and harmonies adding to his own spiritual gain. This distances the human and the non-human. His thoughts drift to nature being his medicine when he is older but the sporadic visits and lack of concern for how the scene he is looking at in that moment will look in the future confirms where his interests lie. The relationship balance is compromised and human’s become more important that the natural world and as a result, this hinders twenty first century eco-criticism.

Memory is a consistent theme in Wordsworth’s poetry where his nostalgic reminiscing of nature becomes a source of happiness. In ‘To be a Butterfly’ Wordsworth uses the captivating innocence of the insect to remind him of earlier days, ‘childish plays’ (Wordsworth, 1801) and his sister Emmeline and how they ‘chased the butterfly’ (Wordsworth, 1801) together playfully. However, in the chasing of the butterfly, Wordsworth becomes the ‘hunter’ (Wordsworth, 1801) disturbing the butterflies habitat and indicating a human dominance over nature. This is hardly the environmentalist of the twenty first century and in general shows a lack of understanding for the non-human world. There is a similar theme of reminiscing in ‘A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey’. Wordsworth considered himself to be a naïve observer that experienced the natural world around him through innocent eyes when he was younger. He went ‘wherever nature lead’ (Wordsworth, 1798) him whether that was ‘o’er mountains’ or ‘by the sides of the deep rivers’ (Wordsworth, 1798) it did not matter, he was simply experiencing and living in nature. He recounts here how his relationship with nature was pure and was experienced without self-reflection or the consideration as to what everything around him meant or what feelings it provoked. Shortly after his memories of nature as a child he seems to take issue with his past relationship with nature as the following lines indicate

‘For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all.-I cannot paint

What then I was.’ (Wordsworth, 1798)

Wordsworth here is discussing how when he experienced nature as a child he did not understand its true value. He did not realise that so much could be gained from the non-human world and almost criticises the naïve way of thinking and writing. However, what Wordsworth does not realise is that although he might not have understood nature and what he could gain from it, his relationship was much more equal and sincere. A natural bonding took place when he was a child that saw him be just an observer of nature and nothing more. The line ‘I cannot paint What I was then’ links to the idea of the sublime and aesthetics and how he looks at nature through the eyes of an artist rather than the eyes of an environmentalist. If he still had that bond his poetry might have aligned more with twenty first century eco-criticism.

At the other end of the sentimental-naïve spectrum is thought to be John Clare. He is thought of as the ‘transcriber of nature’ (Sychrava, 1989: 81) viewing nature with ‘an innocent eye’ (Sychrava, 1989: 81). He writes what he sees and does not divert the attention from what he sees to himself.  ‘The Fallen Elm’ describes nature and observes how the tree interacts with the children and with the birds.

‘The children sought thee in thy summer shade

And made their playhouse rings of stick and stone;

The mavis sang and himself felt alone

While in thy leaves his early nest was made,

And I feel his happiness mine own’ (Clare, 1821)

The tree is at the focus of this poem and is personified and treated like an old family friend. It is at the epicentre of the community. There is no afterthought by Clare or any reminiscing about lost days. Human and non-human exist holistically in equality. There is no philosophical gain. Instead the children, the song thrush and the tree all exist as equals and aid each other. The children are protected by the older tree like a parent as they play and the song thrush’s home is within the tree itself where his nest lays. The message here is that if the tree is cut down then it is not just the tree that suffers but all of nature as each part of the natural world, human and not human, are reliant upon one another. Clare’s descriptions create such a vivid and clear image of unity. There is a feeling of peace and appreciation but without the labelling of aesthetics and there is no human speaker that dominates the natural scene. The start of ‘The Fallen Elm’ is not without Romantic content though as the following lines prove

‘Old elm that murmured in our chimney top

The sweetest anthem autumn ever made

And into mellow whispering calms would drop’. (Clare, 1821)

If ever doubted, Clare was certainly a Romantic poet. The reader instantly feels as if they can see the same image Clare is describing. Jonathan Bate agrees with this view of Clare’s descriptive ability as he states that ‘even if you have never found a bird’s nest and wondered at it, you may by means of Clare’s poem begin to feel a sense of why bird’s nests matter’ (Bate, 2011: 2773) suggesting that Clare’s ability to relate so closely to nature distances him from Wordsworth as being a true eco-poet. Wordsworth tried to portray nature to create a similar feeling but it always feels as if he is writing from looking at a painting rather than being actually stood as a part of the scenery like Clare. This is because Clare avoids self-reflection, he avoids the sublime and he is a truly excellent observer of nature.

Clare’s label as ‘naïve’ however, may not be the case. Clare, in reflection, was not naive ‘because he was aware of the difference between the world and the text’ (Bate, 2011: 2885). He used his poetry to stand up for nature; it was not simply a description by an innocent child.  ‘The Fallen Elm’ is a poem about false freedom and oppression. The people of his hometown were promised freedom and were betrayed. The tree was sacrificed and taken down after years of being pivotal in the happiness of the community of human and non-human and endurance. Clare denounces those that had involvement in the enclosures and the chopping down of the tree.

Thou’st heard the knave, abusing those in power

Bawl freedom loud and then oppress the free,

Thou’st sheltered hypocrites in many a shower’(Clare, 1821)

Clare criticises the propaganda used to justify the actions of cutting down the tree with claims that people would have the opportunity to buy their own land. He is calling out the hypocrites for promising freedom and then oppressing the free. The tree sheltered many of the hypocrites that are having it chopped down and this is a clear example of humanity exploiting nature. The rabbit ‘had not where to make his den’ (Clare, 1821) and ‘labour’s only cow was drove away’ (Clare, 1821). Both these lines express the harm of enclosure and the damaging of relations between human and non-human. The rabbit and cow are both being forced to relocate disrupting their habitat and destroying the bond between the human and non-human. Clare ‘viewed the ‘rights of man’ and the ‘rights of nature’ as co-extensive and co-dependent’ (Bate, 2011: 2841) and believed in the equality of human and non-human. Clare was ‘castigated for his failure to be explicitly ‘sentimental’, to draw moral or philosophical conclusions from nature’ (Sychrava, 1989: 81). His refusal to engage in sentimentalism however elevates the impact of his poetry as being something that stands up for the natural world. He did not need to be sentimental or the sublime to be effective.

The sentimental and the naive were ever present in Romantic works and another common theme that often appeared was that of the beautiful and the sublime. The beautiful originates back to Ancient Egypt where beauty was worshipped. Edmund Burke in 1757 discussed the concept of the beautiful and compared it to the sublime, a concept that came to prominence in the Romantic period. According to Burke the sublime is ‘whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible’ (Burke, 1757) which then excites pleasure and passion in the observer. Something that is considered beautiful according to Burke is usually small, smooth, polished, light and delicate and in comparison the sublime is considered to be vast, rugged, negligent, dark, gloomy and with associations of pain. Immanuel Kant also investigated the idea of the beautiful and thought that ‘for the beautiful in nature we must seek a basis outside ourselves, but for the sublime a basis merely within ourselves.’ (Kant, 1790:100). This can be linked to the sentimental and the naïve. The sentimental being Wordsworth in this instance does use the sublime in his poetry to explore the inner self whereas Clare, although it has been debated whether he was in fact naïve, tends to avoid the sublime and concentrate on the cause of nature. Both the sublime and the beautiful were commonly used in Romantic poetry but the question is whether these features help or hinder Wordsworth’s and Clare’s poetry when using them in modern day eco-criticism.

On one hand, the beautiful and the sublime gave nature something to be recognised by. The inclusion of them in Romantic poetry encouraged people to observe, rediscover and appreciate the non-human. Popularised by writers such as William Gilpin, they provided a platform for a relationship to be established between the human and the non-human. However, both the beautiful and the sublime have implications in eco-criticism. Nature being judged by its aesthetic quality can hinder its cause of protection due to the fact that only landscapes that are aesthetically pleasing and picturesque become worthy enough to be preserved. What originally began with a genuine love towards nature turned picturesque observers into ‘avid consumers of the natural world by turning natural settings – mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, woodlands, and pastoral vales – into aesthetic commodities or art objects.’ (Hutchings, 2007) Nature is taken to Hollywood by Wordsworth as it is glamorised and handpicked. This did not help the ecologically pressured areas and instead encouraged the subject object divide between human and non-human by labelling the sights he saw with the sublime and the beautiful and reaffirming the sense that humans were greater than anything non-human. Nature became something for humans to make art out of. Wordsworth does relatively little harm to the environmentalist cause with his use of just the beautiful. In a ‘Few miles above Tintern Abbey’ Wordsworth writes about ‘the landscape with the quiet of the sky’ (Wordsworth, 1798) which creates an image of serenity and peacefulness. It creates the feeling of nature and man becoming one and recognising their equality. The use of the sublime ruins this. The Romantics ‘tended to devalue or ignore non-spectacular landscapes like boreal forests and wetlands, the protection of which, as we now know, is vitally important to the Earth’s ecological health’ (Hutchings, 2007) which is very apparent in Wordsworth who glamorises the landscapes he observes by referencing the ‘steep and lofty cliffs’, ‘the tall rock’ and ‘the deep and gloomy wood’ (Wordsworth, 1798). He only pays attention to the landscapes that could be turned into an aesthetically pleasing piece of art. This prompts readers to think that the only parts of nature worth sustaining are that of grandness and aesthetic beauty. Another problem with the sublime is that, like the sentimental, it encourages the action of self-scrutiny and moral epiphanies. The sublime becomes about an inverted passion. In ‘A few miles above Tintern Abbey’ Wordsworth exclaims

‘I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused’ (Wordsworth, 1798).

Wordsworth ‘projects himself on to nature, gaining a sense of nearness to nature by virtue of its location.’ (Bate, 2011: 2119) The surrounding of nature causes Wordsworth to explore his own feelings and thoughts and so the sublime becomes about the observer finding a thrill rather than protection of the natural world. He is still taking from nature and is still treating it as if humans are superior. The reference to ‘a presence’ could be a metaphor for God and so Wordsworth is again thinking past what he sees and linking religion and nature and man and perhaps suggesting that God will look after nature if he has already provided such beauty he surely has to maintain it. The mention of ‘elevated thoughts’ is acclaiming humanity with having a higher intellectual standing and thus suggesting humans are more important as is the case throughout all of ‘A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey’ and ‘The Butterfly’. Wordsworth consistently places humanity at the top of the pedestal.

Clare generally avoided the use of the sublime and the beautiful. Clare’s earlier works did in fact explore the beautiful in nature. Poems such as ‘Winter Evening’, ‘Haymaking’ and ‘Wood Pictures in Summer’ celebrate the beauty of the world and the certainties of rural life, where animals must be fed and crops harvested. The Helpston enclosures changed his poetic outlook and style. In both his poetry and prose ‘he marked the tracks, the wayside benches, the names, the landmarks, the coppices and spinneys, the ponds and streams, of the lost fields and meadows of his youth.’ (Bate, 2011: 2643) as a result of the enclosures. This saw him write poems such as ‘The Fallen Elm’ which was an outcry against the political powers that forced the enclosure and ‘The Badger’. ‘The Badger’ is a poem that details a badger hunt which progresses from a description of a badger in its natural habitat, to the depiction of its treatment at the hands of cruel men, to finally the capturing, torture and death of the badger. The poem does not have any emotive language as can be seen in line nine where the humans ‘get a forked stick to bear [the badger] down’(Clare, N/A). Clare is critiquing the human presumption that they are greater than the non-human and the notion that they can treat nature however they wish. The badger is then viewed by humanity as the one in the wrong. As he fights back ‘a frightened woman’ (Clare, N/A) takes her boys away and suddenly the badger becomes this horrifying circus act gone wrong instead of what it actually is; a tortured and provoked victim. The badger is ‘kicked, torn and beaten out’ (Clare, N/A) where he is left to die. The poem highlights the brutality of humans towards the non-human and the harsh reality of the Romantic natural world. ‘The Badger’ is an example of Clare’s progression from an observer of nature to someone that genuinely cared for the natural cause and fought against the destruction of the natural world.

Despite Wordsworth’s seemingly good intentions to resist technological advancements in the industrial world his poetry became more of a retreat to escape urbanisation rather than an appraisal of nature. He in doing this distanced himself from nature. His greed for spiritual fulfilment and pleasure seeking exploited the natural world and treated it as if it is there for his gain. He was able to admire the aesthetics that nature provides but was not able to treat it as an equal. Clare’s main cause was for the protection of nature. He was not interested in self- improvement through the use of nature, nor was he interested in exploiting it. His modern thinking dictated that humans should appreciate nature for what it is. They should not seek to improve it, they should not disturb it and they should not judge it. He thought that humans should build a relationship with the non-human world; they should care for nature as nature has cared for them with the underlying ethos being equality. Because of this Clare’s Romantic poetry helps environmentalism today, Wordsworth’s does not. Can humans and nature ever be equal though? Can there ever be a bond created where there is no layers intervening. For that to happen would language have to not exist or be developed by the non-human world? There are some thoughts that ‘nature is the name under which we use the non-human to validate the human, to interpose a mediation to make humanity easier with itself.’ (Barry, 2009: p254) This suggests that the word nature becomes about the human-self meaning that ‘nature is nothing more than an anthropomorphic construct created by Wordsworth and the rest for their own purposes’ (Barry, 2009:253). Is Clare’s protection of nature actually about him protecting something to make himself feel morally satisfied; his ‘sublime’ if you will rather than a genuine concern for the natural world? This kind of thought could render this discussion as pointless but eco-criticism works towards making human and non-human more equal than it already is. Perhaps true equality amongst anything is impossible but there is certainly a need to protect and sustain the natural world and Clare’s motives seemed to be genuine enough to help this whereas Wordsworth’s ambition seemed to be to improve humanity rather than preserve nature.


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