Nature Language: An Imperialist Battleground

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Nature Language: An Imperialist Battleground The English legitimized their exploitation of Scottish and Irish land through language. Gaining control over local populations required more than occupying territory. English writers like Samuel Johnson and Arthur Young had to claim foreign land by transforming the natural landscape into English text. Robert Fergusson critiqued this process. Other authors demonstrated the politics associated with language and nature. James Macpherson’s Oithóna and William Blake’s Oothoon are two characters inextricably bound to land. They demonstrate the fact that nature writing in the eighteenth-century served as a physical and cultural battleground. Nature language, in the end, was used to justify stealing lands…show more content…
Macpherson’s characters become so involved with nature that he actually fills their interior states with natural phenomena. For example, when Oithóna resolves to join the battle, her mind becomes a small atmosphere: “a troubled joy rose on her mind, like the red path of the lightning on the stormy could” (Macpherson 185). This simile reinforces her deep connection with nature. Her bond remains constant in the story because at death, she claims that “sleep comes like a cloud on my soul” (186). It is significant that Macpherson focuses on natural phenomenon that cannot be owned by humans. Neither “the winds” nor “the waves of the deep” can be tamed or objectified (183). Oothoon also marvels at wildness of nature: in particular, “she spoke to the bright Marigold of Leutha’s vale” for comfort (Blake, lines 4-5). The “flower” is also “a nymph” (lines 6-7). Therefore, both Oithóna and Oothoon share a connection with nature, whether it is embodied in the mind or personified externally. This bond, of course, makes them exploitable. According to Kevin Hutchings, “Oothoon represents in Visions both a person and a landscape” so rape can “affect the environmental aspect of her identity” (para 1). Bromion treats Oothoon like land to conquer. Specifically, after raping her he claims “thy soft American plains are mine” (Blake, line 20). He claims ownership over her body by framing her as virgin land through written dialogue. This moment reiterates the link between language, land, and people when it comes to

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