The Posthuman ‘Othering’ of the World in Mary Oliver’s Poetry




Mary Oliver, ecopoetry, posthuman, animal studies, new ecocriticisms


The essay argues that, in her poetry, Mary Oliver represents a ‘world’ that is made up of nonhuman animals, vegetables, and minerals, in which she ‘others’ organic and inorganic beings and entities in a posthuman attitude. This is posited by relating to the “earth-others” (Braidotti) on equal terms and in a perspective that decenters and de-emphasizes the human subject by reconceptualizing agency as a shared and interconnected ongoing process. Moreover, Oliver substitutes imagination for reason and language as the distinctive human faculty, which, paradoxically, she proposes at the same time as the interpretive tool that may allow us to ‘cross over’ into the consciousness of the nonhuman. Thus, Oliver performs—and suggests—a cognitive leap that may bring us in touch with the different, embodied and embedded, ‘logic’ in which the earth-others inhabit the ecosystem, and one that human animals may fruitfully learn from in order to honor and preserve that same ‘world.’

Author Biography

Paola Loreto, Università degli Studi di Milano

Paola Loreto is Full Professor of American Literature at the University of Milan, Italy. She is the author of three book-length studies on Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Derek Walcott. She has written a number of articles and essays on North-American and Caribbean literatures. A specialist in American poetry, she has translated various US poets and ecopoets. Her latest research is in contemporary American poetry and poetics, poetry translation, world literature, ecocriticism and ecopoetry.


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