Domestic Lives of the Worthless and Insignificant: Land and Labor in Eighteenth-Century British Literature
Date of Award
Ph.D. in English
University of Mississippi
Domestic Lives posits that the proliferation of the georgic mode in selected eighteenth-century works provided writers with the language and tropes needed to negotiate burgeoning stresses on the stability of political, cultural, and class systems. In my reading of the georgic as a “gentrifying” force, the mode generates and recreates a managerial authority over the productive potential of what I call the “laboring sort,” those who are rooted in agricultural labor. In turn, the georgic aided the expansion of the British empire by allowing for the expansion of definitions of national identity. As national identity was gentrified, so too was the British landscape. In works by Mandeville, Defoe, Edgeworth, and Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, I argue that a radical shift in georgic deployment allowed for a recuperation and reimagination of the value of labor for the commonweal when successfully husbanded and controlled. Though once used to shore up systemic oppression, elements of the georgic mode were appropriated by excluded populations, especially women, to expand the definition of the “gentry.”
Black, Mellissa, "Domestic Lives of the Worthless and Insignificant: Land and Labor in Eighteenth-Century British Literature" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2422.
Available for download on Friday, February 07, 2025