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Volume 1 Issue 3

August 2014

Poetic Protest against Human Ascendency over Animals: An Eco-Critical Reading of Ralph Hodgson’s “The Stupidity Street”
Mr. Bidhan Mondal, 
Department of English, 
Burdwan University, 
Bolpur, West Bengal, India
In 18th century England the artificial preservation of uncultivated hilltops would have seemed as absurd as the present day creation of sanctuaries for wild birds and animals which cannot be eaten or hunted. It is difficult nowadays to recapture the breathtaking anthropocentric spirit in which the eighteenth century English people interpreted the biblical stories. Not only representing man as merely a superior animal, it elevated him to a wholly different status, halfway between the beasts and the angels. They believed that the earthly creatures other than men were not made for themselves, but for the use and service of men. Man’s task, in the words of (Genesis, I. 28), was ‘to replenish the earth and subdue it’, to level the woods to till the soil, drive off the predators, kill the vermin, plough up the bracken, drain the fens. Again, according to (Genesis, ix. 2-3), “The Garden of Eden”, was a paradise prepared for man in which Adam had god-given dominion over all living things: “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, And every fowl of the air…Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you” (Thomas, 18). But in the process some long established dogmas about man’s place in nature were discarded and new sensibilities arose towards animals, plants and landscape. The relationship of man and other species was redefined; and his right to exploit those species for his own advantage was sharply challenged. This paper seeks to bring out the assumptions, some barely articulated, which underlay the perceptions, reasoning and feelings of the inhabitants of early modern England towards the animals, birds, vegetation and physical landscape amongst which they spent their lives, often in conditions of proximity which are now difficult to appreciate. It also seeks to persuade its readers that its subject-matter deserves more serious historical treatment than it had received. Man’s ascendency over the animal and vegetable world has, after all, been a basic precondition of human history. Therefore this paper has much to offer historians, for it is impossible to disentangle what the people of the past thought about birds and animals from what they thought about themselves.
Ralph Hodgson’s “The Stupidity Street”, Eco-Criticism, Eco-centric, Poetic protest, Human Ascendency, Anthropocentrism.
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Progressive Publishers is a novice publishing enterprise located at Tranquebar, Tamilnadu, India. It primarily publishes university text-books for efficient English language learning and an online scholarly journal entitled Literary Quest. Its primary goal is to promote progressive, secular, socialist and egalitarian thoughts among academicians, researchers and students of English literature. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Social Justice are the ideals upon which the whole enterprise rests.