"The Ecology of Reform: Land and Labor from 'Piers Plowman' to Edmund Spenser."

Rhodes, William, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Fowler, Elizabeth, Department of English, University of Virginia

The Ecology of Reform offers a new literary history of English vernacular reformism from William Langland to Edmund Spenser, uncovering the political ecological dimensions of the Piers Plowman tradition, English Reformation literature, and Irish colonial writings. I argue that the figure of the agrarian worker emerged as a key figure in this period for imagining processes of social change in terms of humanity’s relationship to the earth. Departing from generic categories like the pastoral, and crossing the medieval-modern divide, I consider a range of texts from Middle English husbandry manuals to Reformation-era polemical tracts and Elizabethan colonial literature in order to demonstrate the variety of ways in which reformist writers use agrarian laborers, landscapes, and economies to imaginatively mediate the role of nature in shaping human societies. The Ecology of Reform traces a distinct canon of reformist poetry that uses allegory, alliteration, and stylistic roughness to imagine and affect the complex process of cultural change as it unfolds within specific historical ecologies from the aftermath of the Black Plague to the early modern colonization of Ireland.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
medieval, Renaissance, poetry, Langland, Spenser, Piers Plowman, Reformation, ecology, political ecology, labor, work, environment, Skelton, Bale, Crowley, Fish, Pierce the Ploughman's Crede, Mum and the Sothsegger
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