Welcome to Augustan Georgic!
I’ve finally planted the seeds of my own academic blog (though I’ve been preparing the ground mentally for a few months).
Many academic blogs start as PhD-journey-blogs. I’m now on my postdoctoral journey, if it can be called a ‘journey’. It lacks the clear end-point of thesis, submission, and viva, and feels more like the establishment of a little farmstead, where I’ll sow questions and – I hope – reap answers in a cycle that might feel non-teleological but that should produce and accumulate stores of something nourishing.
I finished my PhD last year, at the University of Cambridge. My thesis was on time and poetic structure in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Thomson’s The Seasons, and Wordsworth’s The Prelude. It included a chapter on the georgic characteristics of Milton’s and Thomson’s long poems, which I enjoyed writing so much that I decided to pursue this subject in my postdoctoral research. (There is a very brief definition of ‘georgic’ on the About page, if you’re not familiar with it.)
I set up this blog in order to chart this developing research but also to introduce readers to the georgic poems that I love, and to interesting questions that are raised by the georgic genre. Some of the aspects of georgic that I’m most interested in, and that will probably feature a lot on this blog, include:
- Time and temporality. Georgic poems are fascinating on the subject of time, particularly on how humans live and work within the seasonal cycle. In an age of electric lighting, central heating, and air con, we don’t feel the seasons as much, and this affects our relationship with the natural world and how we conceive of that relationship. Georgic also thinks about the relations between past, present, and future: how we can learn from the past, how so much of knowledge and experience is continuous, but also how little we can know of the future.
- Georgic narrators. The narrative voices of georgic poems are so intriguing. Are we reading the writings of educated gentlemen (as most of the poets were), observing hard labour from a distance, from the study or drawing-room, or are we listening to someone who is out toiling in the fields? For many readers of georgic this is an important ethical question.
- Weather. Georgic articulates the persistent desire of mankind to utilise and control the natural world, and to make it as economically productive as possible. But georgic also articulates man’s limitations. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as now, the part of nature that most defied man’s control was the weather. Plan as carefully and work as hard as you will, all your best efforts might still be foiled when along comes a sudden storm, flood, or hurricane. (The relevance of this is all too evident as I write; in the last few weeks Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the north of England have suffered badly from flooding.)
These are just some of the topics that I’ve been thinking about, and want to think further about. On this blog I’ll be posting not just the fruits of these enquiries, but the view at each stage of cultivation and growth. I hope you enjoy it!