Doctor of Philosophy
Eighteenth-century, British, georgic poems participate in the work of the new discipline of political economy of naturalizing economic and political liberalism. Georgics indirectly communicate a moral philosophy amenable to the system of natural laws and rights in John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (1689). In light of the groundbreaking economic science of François Quesnay which Adam Smith revised in his more historically-informed, open-ended analysis, states were increasingly regarded as serving rather than served by their subjects, who now best fulfilled their natural law-based obligation to thrive by freely pursuing their rational self-interests. Georgic poems primarily undermine a conception of state government as a locus of moral authority and social order by presenting alternative, nominally natural sources of socio-economic stability. James Thomson’s The Seasons (1730) moralizes personal industry and innovation while veering from detailed examples of natural phenomena, to vast ecological networks, to nature’s determinative, physical and moral laws. William Mason’s The English Garden (1782) asserts that proprietors possessing enough wealth and taste to landscape their estates in a naturalistic style thereby could prove their fitness to participate in liberal government. Scientist-poet Erasmus Darwin’s The Temple of Nature (1803) rigorously argues for emergent order by presenting a physiological model in which a universal pleasure principle drives all organisms to imitate and synthesize ideas which enable innovation and self-transformation. He defines liberty as immanent to organisms' volitional capacity and locates potential progress in his model’s innate operations. In Darwin, as elsewhere, government becomes an imperfect, refinable technology subservient to a nation’s economy.
Stillman, Jonathan, "Georgic Political Economy: Emergent Forms of Order and Liberal Statecraft in Eighteenth-Century British Poetry" (2019). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 6061.