Postdoc Fellowships and Georgic Climates

The Augustan Georgic blog is back after a year’s hiatus! I put it into hibernation while I completed my first proper postdoctoral position (about which more in a moment). Now I’m embarking on my second, and this one has a thoroughly georgic research agenda so it’s time to wake this blog up again.

I posted my last blog post, on my Visiting Fellowship at Chawton House and John Evelyn’s Sylva, on 23rd June 2016 – a couple of hours before the announcement that the UK had voted to leave the EU. Three weeks later I interviewed for the position of Research and Teaching Fellow at the University of Leeds and was given the job. Having faced up to the likelihood of another academic year spent teaching at various institutions on zero-hour contracts, getting this position at the eleventh hour was a huge relief.

As well as teaching, I worked as Research Assistant on the AHRC-funded project ‘British Romantic Writing and Environmental Catastrophe’. Although I had been cultivating my interest in georgic since finishing my PhD, the project meant I had to shift focus to another of my related research interests: weather-writing. I also put all my blogging energy into running the project website: http://romanticcatastrophe.leeds.ac.uk

There were so many enjoyable and rewarding elements of working on the BRWEC project. I got to collaborate with two of my favourite institutions, The Poetry Society and The Wordsworth Trust (which meant several delightful trips to the Lake District). I got to help the project PI, Dr David Higgins, organise and host a big environmental humanities conference on ‘Mediating Climate Change’, which was a great success. And I got the chance, with the help of my colleagues in Leeds, to develop my plans for my own postdoctoral research project.

Reapers (1795) by George Stubbs (1724–1806). Enamel on Wedgwood biscuit earthenware, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

As this post was a one-year contract, I didn’t have much time to hang about before having to think about the next job. I knew I wanted to stay in Leeds, if possible, as I’d got to know the School of English and the Faculty of Arts and the great people (staff and students) therein. So I put in an application to the British Academy’s Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme, which turned out to be successful. And I started my new Fellowship three days ago!

My new project is titled ‘Georgic Climates: Writing the Weather in Eighteenth-Century Poetry’, and will focus on georgic poetry from approximately 1700-1830. My application to the British Academy proposed a version of the study of georgic that I’d been thinking about for a long time. I knew I wanted to write about the structures of georgic poems and their strange provisionality; the way all action and outcome in georgic hinges on different possibilities, most of which are climatic variations. But my conception of this project was enhanced greatly by the research into ecocritical theory that I had to carry out as part of the BRWEC project. I’m excited by the potential insight to be gained into eighteenth-century British culture – and thus the history and development of our own modern attitudes – if we read georgic poetry through the lens of ecocriticism. I think that some recent work in new materialism, particularly, has a lot to say to eighteenth-century georgic; and eighteenth-century georgic has a lot to say to the new materialism.

That’s why this blog has been rejuvenated! It’s not going to be an outlet for detailed academic research findings, but rather a place for me to muse lightheartedly on the various georgic poems that I read. I just wanted to give an update on what I’ve been up to, and some background to the bits and pieces that will be appearing on this blog.

It’s now a cool and cloudy autumnal Sunday evening, so I’m going to go and curl up with a cup of tea to read Somervile’s The Chace – heaven!

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