Denise Levertov: Through an ecofeminist lens

Katherine A Hanson, Marquette University


In the U.S., the social and protest movements of the 1960s for civil rights, peace, and feminism were followed in the early 1970s by the environmental movement. In a speech in 1970, Denise Levertov realized that the problems of "war, and racism, and pollution of natural resources, and social injustice, and male chauvinism" were interconnected, caused by a system of oppression rooted in a dualistic view of the world. Levertov's poetry, from the beginning, arose out of a nonhierarchical worldview. This worldview, also embraced by many ecofeminists, would continue to be consistently present throughout her life and her poetry and would become even more important in her later poetry and in her increasing involvement in protest movements. This essentially ecofeminist worldview is revealed throughout the body of Levertov's work, creating a unity or coherence to her work through the recurrence of themes and patterns. Her body of work reweaves nature and humanity's story in order to challenge readers to see the world through an ecofeminist lens. Because ecofeminist literary criticism is a fairly new method of inquiry, the first chapter attempts to define what an ecofeminist literary criticism might look like, drawing on the ideas of Gretchen Legler, Greta Gaard, Patrick Murphy, and Charlene Spretnak. Legler suggests looking for emancipatory strategies, and Gaard suggests a series of questions. Murphy's stance emphasizes the dialogical relationship between ecofeminist theory and practice, seeing in ecofeminism a way to help us interpret and understand "literature, language, and thought" while at the same time changing how we think and act in the world. Spreknak's theory of radical nonduality suggests how our relationship with nature is both socially constructed and rooted in our physical embeddedness within the world of nature. The rest of the chapters trace how ecofeminist concerns and a nonhierarchical world view are interwoven into Levertov's poetry from her very first poems in The Double Image to the very last poems published posthumously in This Great Unknowing: Last Poems.

Recommended Citation

Hanson, Katherine A, "Denise Levertov: Through an ecofeminist lens" (2007). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3275944.