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Down the Slant towards the Eye: Hopkins and Ecological Perception

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2020


This essay reads Gerard Manley Hopkins's poetry for its “ecological perception”: a perceptual modality involving the dynamic interaction between human bodies and environmental givens or potentialities. Linking Hopkins's syncretic ideas about perception to the psychologist J. J. Gibson's account of our sensitivity to environmental “affordances,” the essay assesses three scales of ecological perception in Hopkins (arboreal, atmospheric, apocalyptic) and stresses the particular relevance of the intermediate (atmospheric) scale for our experience of environmental crisis. In “The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe,” Hopkins recognizes the “teleconnections” bridging global systems and specific sites without remaining rooted to the local or bioregional (arboreal) or rushing to a vantage beyond planetary confines (apocalyptic).

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2020

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With gratitude to Devin Griffiths, Deanna Kreisel, Naomi Levine, and Kathryn Tabb.


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