James Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane and Naturalists’ Georgic

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Abstract

James Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane (1764) offers an aestheticised account of the cultivation of sugar and the management of a Caribbean plantation and its enslaved workforce. Scholars, while showing the poem’s debt to Virgil’s Georgics, have noted its role in defending slavery through a vision of a reformed and supposedly humane plantation. Few, however, have paid attention to the poem’s interest in natural history, explored both in the poetic text and in its copious footnotes. This chapter argues that The Sugar-Cane is a ‘naturalists’ georgic’; a type of poem which describes, celebrates, or offers instruction in the rural labour of undertaking natural history. The chapter closely reads Grainger’s engagement with the natural environment of St Kitts, revealing both his interest in botany and zoology and his abilities as a practitioner of natural history. It concludes by exploring the notion of the ‘naturalists’ georgic’ in a variety of later texts included poetry by Erasmus Darwin, William Cowper, and Gilbert White, and natural history by Gilbert White, W.H. Hudson, and David Attenborough.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeorgic Literature and the Environment
Subtitle of host publicationWorking Land, Reworking Genre
EditorsSue Edney, Tess Somervell
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Chapter5
Pages73-88
Number of pages16
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781003241300
ISBN (Print)9781032148250, 9781032148243
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Environmental Literature, Culture and Media
PublisherRoutledge

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