"Symbiosis or death" : an ecocritical examination of Douglas Livingstone's poetry

Stevens, M.P. (2005) "Symbiosis or death" : an ecocritical examination of Douglas Livingstone's poetry. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




As the quotation in the title of this thesis indicates, Douglas Livingstone states that unless humankind can learn to live in mutuality with the rest of the natural world, the human race faces extinction. Using the relatively new critical approach of ecological literary criticism (ecocriticism) this thesis explores Livingstone's preoccupation with "symbiosis or death" and shows that the predominant theme in his ecologically-orientated poetry is one of ecological despair. Countering this is a tentative thread of hope. Possible resolution lies in the human capacity to attain compassion and wisdom through the judicious use of science, creativity, the power of art and the power of love. Livingstone's ecological preoccupation is thus informed by the universal themes which have pervaded literature since its recorded beginnings. The first chapter examines the concepts of ecology and literary ecocriticism, followed by a chapter on the life and work of Douglas Livingstone, and a review of the critical response to the five collections of poetry which predate A Littoral Zone, his final work. The remaining four chapters offer an analysis of his ecologically-orientated poetry, with the majority of the space given to an examination of A Littoral Zone. The following ecological themes are used in the analysis of the poems: evolutionary theory, humankind's relationship to nature, ecological equilibrium, and ecological destruction. The latter two themes are shown to represent Livingstone's view of the ideal and the real, or the opposites of hope and despair. The analysis interweaves an argument with the existing critical response to this collection. This thesis demonstrates that Livingstone's crucial message – the need for humankind to attain ecological sensibility or “the knowledge of right living” (Ellen Swallow) and so obviate its certain extinction – has largely been ignored in previous critical works.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Douglas Livingstone; South African poets, poetry, ecology in literature, ecocriticism
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1010 Poetry
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > English
Supervisors:Wylie, D. (Dr)
ID Code:1733
Deposited By: Nicolene Mvinjelwa
Deposited On:12 Aug 2010 09:49
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:21
608 full-text download(s) since 12 Aug 2010 09:49
423 full-text download(s) in the past 12 months
More statistics...

Repository Staff Only: item control page