What is it Not Like to be a Skylark? Apophatic Form in Nature Writing


This article reads twentieth-century Nature Writing as an inquiry into limits of narrative in confrontations with nonhuman animals. I argue that in their nonfiction accounts of nonhuman animals, J. A. Baker and Emma Louise Turner settle on forms that express what it is like to be a peregrine falcon or a skylark. Subsequently, however, readers are given to understand the degree to which the imagined identification falters. Far from aspiring to mimetic accounts of the environment, I approach these texts as sophisticated negotiations of differential form. From this point of view, narrative is a temporary effect set apart from alternative forms. By considering ‘disnarration’ as much as narration, the incompatibility of environmental themes and narrative form emerges as an affordance in its own right.

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