Transatlantic Gardens: Literary and Ecological Form in the Long 18th Century
Short form CFP:
This panel examines links between literary and ecological form across the Atlantic in the long eighteenth century. Formal experimentation is often taken as analogue for political critique, but in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, these critiques tend to be sited within specific locales. What literary shifts are enabled or enforced by divergent ecological sites? What new perspectives on formal innovation become available when we view the plantation through the lens of the garden, and vice versa?
This panel welcomes papers examining links between literary and ecological form across the Atlantic in the long eighteenth century. The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw the large-scale enclosure of village commons in Britain alongside massive colonial expansion. Within this context, literary engagement with the ecological was pressed to manage both the extra-national expansion and the intra-national encroachment of sovereign power, often siting critique of political and economic changes within specific locales. Throughout the time period, poetic genres (including, but not limited to, the prospect poem, the English and colonial georgic, the Romantic nature lyric), as well as prose forms (including colonial novels, natural histories, travel narratives) negotiated these rapid shifts in local and geopolitical power.
While eighteenth-century Georgic poems tended to describe privately owned agricultural properties as sites of both labor and leisure, training the reader’s eye to perceive managed landscapes as aesthetically pleasing, Romantic poetry tended to respond more negatively toward private (or newly-privatised) property, either through an attention to the displaced figures of the former commons or through an explicit interest in sublime landscapes that resisted being turned to agricultural usefulness. In the Americas, English methods of enclosure influenced colonial settlement, as the garden morphed into the plantation, which proved a crucial site of literary, formal, and political experimentation. Responding to the ecosystems of the colonies, natural history tomes sought to catalogue indigenous species in the Americas, provoking a poetics similarly oriented toward scientific accuracy and structural completion. Papers might examine the afterlives of the country house poem, poetic responses to enclosure, the Romantic lyric’s complex relation to sitedness, the role of gardens on the plantation, the persistence of master texts across the Atlantic, the poetics of natural history, race and ecology, enslavement and enclosure, and other forms of poetic management in the long eighteenth century.