From Suzanne Verdier to Anna Barbauld: An Ecofeminist Revolution of the Georgics

Authors

Keywords:

Suzanne Verdier, Anna Barbauld, Georgic, Sericulture, ecofeminism

Abstract

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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Author Biography

Caroline Dauphin, Sorbonne Nouvelle University

Caroline Dauphin is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris (France). She holds an MA in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne and the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris. Her research focuses on an ecocritical approach of the representations of nature in Erasmus Darwin's works and William Blake's poems and designs. More broadly, she is interested in the connection between science and literature, 18th century poetry, comparative approaches environmental humanities and gender studies. Her essays have been published in Comparatismes en Sorbonne, L'Atelier and several scholarly publications in French.

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Published

2021-10-28

Issue

Section

Articles: Eco-Georgic: From Antiquity to the Anthropocene