Unsettling the Environment: The Violence of Language in Angela Rawlings’s Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists


  • Sarah Groeneveld University of Wisconsin-Madison


Experimental Poetry, Ecocriticism, Postcolonial Gothic, Violence, Animals


Canadian poet Angela Rawlings’s Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists (2006) raises questions about the violence of language in the context of a settler-colonial nation. Set in (and dedicated to) Northern Ontario, the text reveals the region’s fields and lakes as environments caught up in a violent history. This article argues that Rawlings’s “unsettling” use of experimental, “nonhuman” poetry allows her to critique the role that anthropo-, phallo-, and euro- centric language has played in the (discursive) settling of Canada. By exploring how Rawlings employs what Cynthia Sugars calls the “postcolonial gothic” to disturbingly metamorphose human and nonhuman bodies, this article shows how a postcolonial ecocritical reading of Wide Slumber reveals the (at times violent or difficult) intertwining of national, cultural and ecological concerns. Ultimately, the concept of “unsettling” unites the postcolonial, the environmental and the gothic within Rawlings’s Wide Slumber, a poem that challenges the process of colonial settlement and discourse, shows concern for the well-being of the natural environment, and utilizes gothic disturbance.

Author Biography

Sarah Groeneveld, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sarah Groeneveld is a doctoral candidate in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she also received an MA in 2010. Her research interests include critical animal studies, postcolonial ecocriticism, posthumanism and biopolitics. Her dissertation, titled “Animal Endings: Species Necropolitics in Contemporary Transnational Literature,” examines the unexpected literary methods that authors use to represent global, systematic animal death. She is currently a Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow at the UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities.