The purpose of this anthology is to look at writing about nature from a new and different perspective and to illuminate the writing of women, over the centuries and up to the present day, who have written about and are writing now about the natural world in the islands of Britain, Ireland and the outlying islands of our archipelago.
There has, in recent years, been an explosion of interest in writing about place, landscape, and the natural world. This renewed fascination with the genre of nature writing coincides with a critical moment in our planet’s history. The renaming of this current geological age as the anthropocene is an acknowledgement of the extent to which human activity has become the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Exciting new voices have emerged in response to the challenges this represents. But despite the blossoming interest in writing about the natural world, women’s voices, especially within our archipelago, have remained very much in the minority.
Alongside the traditional forms of the travelogue, the walking guide, books about the observing and naming of birds, plants and wildlife, Women on Nature will investigate and embrace other ways of seeing and recording. I will sift though the pages of women’s fiction, poetry, household planners, gardening diaries and recipe books to show the multitude of ways in which women have observed and recorded the natural world about them, from the fourteenth century writing of the anchorite nun Julian of Norwich, to the seventeenth century travel journal of Celia Fiennes; through the keen observations of Emily Brontë of Haworth Moor in Yorkshire, to the brilliant new voices throughout the archipelago writing today.
Women on Nature represents a scintillating vision of the natural world which, in addition to being a rich anthology and a cracking read, will be of unique importance in terms of education, women’s history, and the history of writing about nature.
One time, however, we were near quarrelling. He said the pleasantest manner of spending a hot July day was lying from morning till evening on a bank of heath on the middle of the moors, with bees humming dreamily about among the bloom, and the larks singing high up over head, and the blue sky and bright sun shining steadily and cloudlessly. That was his most perfect idea of heaven's happiness: mine was rocking in a rustling green tree with a west wind blowing, and bright white clouds flitting rapidly above; and not only larks, but throstles, and blackbirds, and linnets, and cuckoos pouring out music on every side, and the moors seen at a distance, broken into cool dusky dells; but close by great swells of long grass undulating in waves to the breeze; and woods and sounding water, and the whole world awake and wild with joy. He wanted all to lie in an ecstacy of peace; I wanted all to sparkle, and dance in a glorious jubilee. I said his heaven would be only half alive, and he said mine would be drunk: I said I should fall asleep in his; and he said he could not breathe in mine, and began to grow very snappish. At last, we agreed to try both, as soon as the right weather came and then we kissed each other and were friends.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
I have woken up with the most extraordinary vision! To create a patchwork, an interconnecting network, of locally sourced wildflower hay meadow corridors that run the length and breadth of our archipelago, and using a percentage of the profits from Women On Nature to fund it. Working title... ask me when I've had a coffee. The Wildflower Haymeadow Initiative?
I've been trying to…
When Unbound asked if I would be interested in curating an anthology of women’s writing about the natural world, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done already. When Susan Griffin published her controversial book Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her in 1978 it became a deeply controversial cornerstone of feminist literature. It’s starting point was that women were somehow perceived to be ‘closer…
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