A Contradiction in Nature: The Attitude Toward Nature and Its Implications in James Thomson’s “The Seasons”

Literary Imagination, Oxford UP 16 (1):56-67 (2014)
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The attitude toward nature in James Thomson’s "The Seasons" has not been duly noted by literary commentators. Instead, the reception of "The Seasons" in modern literary criticism has focused on all sorts of aspects, ranging from visual imagery, to “dislocation, deformity and renewal.” However, when nature as a theme in the poem has been tackled, critics have favored its religious implications—specifically, those pertaining to the historical period in English literature, as well as a number of hypotheses about Thomson’s own relation toward god—over Thomson’s conception of nature on its own terms. Furthermore, none has, in my view, concentrated enough on the most emblematic characteristic of "The Seasons": its unresolved stance toward the natural and its strongly polarized attitude toward it. The aim of this essay is to examine these inconsistencies in order to reveal what they tell us about the period’s changing perspectives, to place "The Seasons"’ reception of the natural in the history of eighteenth-century literature, and to uncover the implications and fertile consequences of Thomson’s view of nature—which spill into para-literary domains.
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