Mary Oliver Nature Poems

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1. Discuss the way Oliver's nature poems can be read as political- questioning the hierarchies and dualisms underpinning Western cultures.

Mary Oliver's poems that explore nature can also be read as political as they question the dualisms and hierarchies that form strong foundations in Western cultures. Through the emergence of the patriarchy (a Western ideology) over 5000 years ago, traditional epistemological paradigms of Western society have been based on dualisms. Through patriarchal ideology the world is ordered into dualisms, or opposed pairs of concepts. In these pairs one concept is positioned to be superior to the other, and this ‘other' is usually discriminated against or marginalised. Dualisms that exist in Western cultures are the opposed concepts of male from female, culture from nature, spirit from matter and mortality from immortality. Oliver's nature poems are political in the way that these Western dualisms are portrayed and the criticism of the hierarchies that evolved from such dualisms. The traditional nature of the Western paradigm creates a hierarchy of values based on dualisms. The hierarchy, in order of most importance, begins with god, then man, woman, children, animals, finishing with nature last. Mary Oliver, as a poet who celebrates the natural world and forces, challenges such Western hierarchies that have a distinct anthropocentric view. "Gannets", "Spring", "Lilies" and "Some Questions You Might Ask" explore these dualisms and criticise the hierarchies that underpin Western cultures.

The dualism of culture as opposed to nature, and the resulting hierarchy of humans believing themselves superior to nature according to Western epistemological paradigms, are criticised through Oliver's nature poems, in particular "Spring" and "Lilies". The first few lines in her poem "Lilies" displays the persona's desire to return to nature, "I have been thinking/ about living/ like the lilies". This introduction is a common element in many of...
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