‘This is me, anonymous, water's soliloquy’: The River's Voice as a Coalescence of Humankind and Nature in Alice Oswald's Dart
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In her long poem Dart, Alice Oswald focuses on the mutual relation between humankind and their natural environment, thus evoking a profound eco-consciousness through poetic means. By following the course of the river Dart from source to sea, the poem becomes a ‘songline’ in which the voices of various persons, who work and live with the river, merge into the all-embracing voice of the Dart. Strongly connected to the river's song is its self that comes into being only through the other selves entering the stream and merging into one fluid identity that can express itself through others. As a result, landscape, animals and human beings are presented as fundamentally interdependent by constituting one self-contained ecosystem. Hence, the aim of this paper will be to elucidate the coalescence of the human and the natural that is generated through the self-articulation of the river Dart. A theoretical context will be provided by discussing Lawrence Buell's ecocritical approach to the relation between nature and language. Based on his concept of adéquation, a closer examination of the Dart's voice will reveal the river's animistic nature in which the anthropocentric and the ecocentric merge. The subsequent analysis of selected text passages will relate these ecocritical aspects to the river in terms of its depiction as a self-conscious spiritual being and a spatial entity that is experienced physically. In conclusion, the temporality of the Dart, exemplified through its mythological dimension, will be examined.