Many writers and poets have described their close affinity with nature and the environment through their works. Moreover, in the case of writers, the environment is not limited only to picturesque places with a lot of greenery. It could also include dirty rooms, dingy pubs, and depressing workstations. How exactly these environments affect a writer – that’s something we’ll dig into.
Writers and their respective environments
Diana Fuss, professor of literature at Princeton University, in her book “The Sense of an Interior: Four Writers and the Rooms That Shaped Them”, studied the living and writing spaces of four well-known authors. Fuss describes the smoky atmosphere in Sigmund Freud’s consulting room, the view from the window of Emily Dickinson’s bedroom, the inhospitality of Helen Keller’s house and the claustrophobic atmosphere of Marcel Proust’s bedroom. The aim of the book was to understand how writers experienced their writing spaces.
Giving readers a glimpse of this, Fuss noted that Proust, who suffered from asthma, lived in a cork-lined room with heavy curtains to keep natural light and air out. The author of “Remembrance of Things Past,” a work steeped in sensory experience, “found it necessary to suspend the senses in order to write about them,” Fuss wrote.
On the other hand, Dickinson’s corner bedroom had the best light and the best views in the whole house. The sight aided her with telescoping power, which led her to produce various pieces of literature. So, according to Fuss’s observations, the environment affects writers and their works.
How did the environment and nature influence literary geniuses?
In the mid-19th century, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson began to reinterpret the meaning of nature and our relationship to it. These authors laid the groundwork for an evolution of environmental thinking and ethics in which the environment was seen as more than just a natural resource. For example, in ‘Walden’ and other writings, Thoreau pointed out that our natural environment had much more to offer than material resources to exploit. Rather, Thoreau noted that nature and the environment were sources of spiritual truth and support.
If we consider Tagore, nature is a constant motif of his literary work. His poems, especially certain lines from ‘Gitanjali’, portray his intense affection for nature and its beauty. In fact, he wrote poems, plays, short stories, as well as a separate group of lyrics in the form of poems for songs under the name “Prakriti Parjaay”, emphasizing the need to protect nature as well as our Mother Earth. Additionally, in Santiniketan, Tagore started the Earth Festival through “brikkharopan” (tree planting) in 1927, during which students sang and read his poems.
Even William Wordsworth, the pioneer of Romanticism, repeatedly emphasizes the importance of nature for the intellectual and spiritual development of an individual. A good relationship with nature helps individuals to connect to both the spiritual world and the social world. As Wordsworth explains in “The Prelude”, a love of nature can lead to a love of humanity.
Thus, nature and the environment are the engines of several renowned writers and poets. To sum up its importance in their lives, the following lines from the English poet and politician Lord Byron are most appropriate.
There is fun in the pathless woods, there is rapture on the lonely shore, there is a society where no one interferes, at the edge of the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love Man no less, but Nature more.