From Suzanne Verdier to Anna Barbauld: An Ecofeminist Revolution of the Georgics
Keywords:Suzanne Verdier, Anna Barbauld, Georgic, Sericulture, ecofeminism
This article explores how the tradition of georgic writing in the early 19th century is reinvented through strong ecofeminist standpoints in France and in England. It focuses on the works of two poets: Suzanne Verdier’s Géorgiques du Midi (Georgics of Southern France, 1799-1812) and Anna Barbauld’s English poem “The Caterpillar” (1815). Through a comparative analysis, this article will question the connections between French and English traditions of the Georgic and observe how female voices emerge at the dawn of Romanticism, with specific ecopolitical claims and poetic representations. Indeed, Verdier dedicates the first canto of her French georgics, “The Silkworm”, to sericulture, an exclusively female practice, which is initially denounced as a form of repressive biopolitics, but later becomes a model of female empowerment and ecological awareness. The author plays with the tradition of Georgics to turn them into an ecofeminist plea. As for Barbauld, she was a friend of Erasmus Darwin, whose essay Phytologia, though not openly political, was connected to radicalism. Both Darwin’s and Barbauld’s work imply, as Verdier’s poem does, that reforming agriculture would lead to a global social and political change. Barbauld prolonged this reflection by questioning the place of women in this new world in a context of political turmoil with the Napoleonic wars. Yet, despite the hostility between France and England during this period, this inaugural ecological reflection may also constitute a social and poetical network propitious to the inter-fertilization of revolutionary ideas, knitting secret silk threads of peace between the two countries, and the promise of a fertile future.
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