|Essay type:||Book review|
|Categories:||Analysis Nature Edgar Allan Poe Books|
Nature is a concept that has been explored by different people in different contexts. For instance, scientists examine nature to understand and exploit the parts that can benefit human life. Religious and spiritual people sometimes view nature as sacred and see it as manifestations of their deity or confirmation of their beliefs. Several authors have explored the concept of life in their writing from different perspectives, including romantics, transcendentalists, Puritans, Native Americans, and colonials. The works by Jonathan Edwards, Edgar Allan Poe, and 'The Talk Concerning the First Beginning view nature as in being harmony with humanity and God.
JONATHAN EDWARDS ON NATURE
Jonathan Edwards was a puritan who lived in the 1700s. His philosophical and theological work viewed nature as a manifestation of God. Edwards lived at a time where the religious and scientific view of life was, and most theologians criticized modern science's approach to nature. Modern science shifted the aspects of living to a more mechanistic approach (Zakai 95). This new knowledge about life by scientists further de-legitimized Christianity and the Bible as a source of knowledge (Zakai 96). Edwards saw this progress in science and the generation of new experience as intelligible as a manifestation of God's wisdom to people (Zakai 47). His work applied the medieval and classical notions such as the 'great chain of being effect (Zakai 145), and remained rooted in some pre-modern views regarding nature.
THE ZUNI "TALK CONCERNING THE FIRST BEGINNING"
Native American views of nature contrasted with Euro-American perspectives. The Zuni' Talk Concerning the First Beginning' reimagines the origin of people from the earth. It views people as not only being part of the planet but also being from the planet. The Talk imagines the universe as a hollow place where people come from, similarly, that people come out of the womb (Wiget 4). The earth, in this narrative, functions as a mother that bears humans. The center of the earth is the Zuni, meaning the point of balance and perfection (Wiget 6). After being born of the earth, human beings spend their time looking for the Zuni, and in between that time, a lot of changes about them physically and socially.
EDGAR ALLAN POE 'THE LAKE'
In the Lake, Edgar Allan Poe explores the life that ends in a lake. He explores life, youth, and death by juxtaposing it with nature. He writes, 'whose solitary soul could make/an Eden of that dim lake' (Poe). The analogy of Eden is presumably taken from the Biblical creation story of the Garden of Eden. In this piece, he writes about death's dreaded topic as a way to reconnect with nature. For him, in this piece, death is not as sad as we view it. Instead, it allows the solitary soul to go to Eden (Poe), which is symbolically a happy place to be. The lake that looks dim can be a pleasant place to a solitary dead soul. The description gives a spiritual aspect to the lake and the harmony that human beings have, or should have, with nature.
Edwards and Native Americans' view of nature sees human beings as intelligible in exploring and trying to understand nature. Human beings do to understand nature, such as scientific work, and the search for Zuni is guided by intelligence. According to Edwards, the knowledge is guided by God's wisdom. The Talk views that intelligence as part of human life to find the perfect balance.
The three works view nature and human beings being in oneness. In 'The Talk,' human beings come from the earth and live their lives searching for the center of the earth, the Zuni. In 'the Lake' Poe writes about the unison between a solitary soul and the lake being a 'paradise' of sorts, symbolizing perfect harmony and belonging.
Edwards work views nature as tied to a deity as the source of the knowledge while the 'Talk' views this intelligible trait of humans as emanating from the earth itself. Poe's mention of Eden can be attributed to religious doctrine, especially the Bible or Quran. The Talk's view of nature is that nature is of itself, without attaching it to a deity. The search for understanding of nature is drawn from the humans coming out of the earth and therefore being part of nature.
Nature is interpreted differently by different authors and groups. Native Americans, Puritans, and Romantics all view nature as being in harmony with humanity, as presented in the discussion. The puritans associate nature and attribute the source of knowledge on nature to God's wisdom. Native Americans see humanity as originating from nature and the earth as the mother of all humanity. The religiosity of Paradise, Eden, and for the Native Americans, the Zuni is brought about in the concept of nature. Nature is, therefore, not just mechanical and should be understood; it can also be spiritual and religious.
Poe, Edgar A. "The Lake, by Edgar Allan Poe." Black Cat Poems, 2007, www.blackcatpoems.com/p/the_lake.html. Accessed 18 June 2020.
Wiget, Andrew. "A Talk Concerning First Beginnings: Teaching Native American Oral Literatures." The Heath Anthology of American Literature Newsletter, 1993: 4-7.
Zakai, Avihu. Jonathan Edwards's Philosophy of Nature: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning. A&C Black, 2010.
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