"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" as an Ambient Poem; a Study of a Dialectical Image; with Some Remarks on Coleridge and Wordsworth
This essay is a testing ground for "ambience," exploring the role of space in poetics, ideology and theory, building on the conclusion to the book The Poetics of Spice. Though ecocriticism and ecological philosophy talk about environmental awareness and "interconnectedness," we may not be certain of what we mean by such terms. They should, for example, remind all literary scholars of the idea, and the ideology, of the aesthetic. By closely reading the famous poem "The Star" by Jane Taylor, this essay delineates some of the poetic forms involved in the inscription of environmental awareness, such as minimalism, and the foregrounding of what in structuralism is called the "contact" or medium of communication. The essay investigates the possibility of a "feminine" form of Romantic ecology in contradistinction to more masculinist versions. It uses Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida to counter the representation of ecological awareness in Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre. The essay discusses the work on culture and civilization by Geoffrey Hartman and Terry Eagleton to adumbrate the ways in which public space is evoked in environmental poetics. Walter Benjamin's notion of the "dialectical image" is employed to indicate the Janus-faced nature of the poetic and ideological fantasy of "ambience" (or "aura" in Benjamin). In considering William Wordsworth's sonnet "Composed upon Westminster Bridge" and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the essay investigates the virtues and vices of ambience, as opposed to a more Burkean, "maximalist" view of the natural world. The essay continues the line of thought explored in David Simpson's Wordsworth and the Figurings of the Real, especially the final section, "Societies of Figures."