2015 Theses Doctoral
Literature of Landscape: The Enclosure Movement in the Seventeenth Century English Imagination
"Literature of Landscape: The Enclosure Movement in the Seventeenth-Century English Imagination" examines the writing of England's rural life: the drama, poetry, and epic that depict it, as well as the political pamphlets and husbandry manuals that sought more directly to reshape it. I explore how land, once seen as an immovable legacy tied to particular forms of community stewardship and use, came to be understood as a commodity over which an individual owner should have absolute dominion. I do this by turning to the moral imagination of Renaissance literature, both canonical and little-known. Engaging the rich historical work on the transformation of land use in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, I show how literary, agrarian, and political texts helped early moderns adapt to and make sense of the near total transformation of English rural life that accompanied enclosure and its aftermath: the dissolution of the commons, an expanding and increasingly mobile wage labor market, and changes in land stewardship and agricultural practices prompted by new forms of ownership and loss. At a time when there was no fully developed vocabulary in other forms of discourse, I argue that literary narrative became a key analytical tool for imagining the unimaginable, a ballast and a compass for navigating the seismic socio-economic, environmental, and cultural shifts catalyzed by enclosure.
This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2020-02-27.
More About This Work
- Academic Units
- English and Comparative Literature
- Thesis Advisors
- Howard, Jean E.
- Ph.D., Columbia University
- Published Here
- February 5, 2015