New book! Georgic Literature and the Environment: Working Land, Reworking Genre

Dr Sue Edney (English, Bristol) and Dr Tess Somervell (Worcester College) have just published a new book on Georgic Literature and the Environment.

From the Routledge website:

This expansive edited collection explores in depth the georgic genre and its connections to the natural world. Together, its chapters demonstrate that georgic—a genre based primarily on two classical poems about farming, Virgil’s Georgics and Hesiod’s Works and Days—has been reworked by writers throughout modern and early modern English-language literary history as a way of thinking about humans’ relationships with the environment.

The book is divided into three sections: Defining Georgic, Managing Nature and Eco-Georgic for the Anthropocene. It centres the georgic genre in the ecocritical conversation, giving it equal prominence with pastoral, elegy and lyric as an example of ‘nature writing’ that can speak to urgent environmental questions throughout literary history and up to the present day. It provides an overview of the myriad ways georgic has been reworked in order to address human relationships with the environment, through focused case studies on individual texts and authors, including James Grainger, William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Seamus Heaney, Judith Wright and Rachel Blau DuPlessis.

This is a much-needed volume for literary critics, academics and students engaged in ecocritical studies, environmental humanities and literature, addressing a significantly overlooked environmental literary genre.

“The georgic is the genre of the Anthropocene. More than pastoral, georgic means a working countryside, humans embedded with nonhumans, sustaining without exploiting. These essays pose critical ecological questions arising from centuries of writing from Hesiod and Virgil to John Clare, Derek Jarman and Isabella Tree. Now more than ever we need the georgic to think with.”

Donna Landry, Emeritus Professor of English and American Literature, University of Kent, UK

Table of contents:

Foreword by David Fairer


PART I Defining Georgic 

1. What Is Georgic’s Relation to Pastoral?

2. How Is Walden Georgic?

3. Middlemarch and the Georgic Novel

PART II Managing Nature 

4. Agrilogistics and Pest Control in Early Modern Georgic

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

6. Rural Frances Burney

7. Wordsworth’s Tidal Georgic

8. Wordsworth’s ‘Michael’ and the Imperilled Georgic: Questions of Agricultural Permanence

9. Georgic Culture in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native: Participant Observation

PART III Eco-Georgic for the Anthropocene 

10. Georgic Hope in Robert Bloomfield and John Clare

11. Seamus Heaney’s Elegiac and Domestic Georgics

12. The Semi-Georgic Australian Sugarcane Novel

13. Judith Wright and Virgil’s Third Georgic

14. Derek Jarman’s Gay Georgic

15. Georgic Reversals in Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ Days and Works Afterword


A Poetics of Inquiry: A Reading and Conversation with Tjawangwa Dema

Internationally acclaimed poet, Tjawangwa Dema (The Careless Seamstress and Mandible) will be reading from her work as part of the University of Southern California’s Visions and Voices platform. Dema is a poet, arts administrator, teaching artist, and an Honorary Senior Research Associate in the Department of English at the University of Bristol. Her writing includes work around eco-poetry, and identity and the pastoral form in poetry.

After the reading, Dema will be joined in conversation by Dr Kirk Sides of the Centre for Environmental Humanities and the Department of English at the University of Bristol.

The event takes place on Thursday 25 February at 8pm GMT, and is free. Registration is through Eventbrite.

Tjawangwa Dema’s poems are as bold, roving, and insistent as they are delicate and incisive.

Tracy K. Smith, U.S. poet laureate

Don’t miss internationally acclaimed Motswana poet Tjawangwa Dema, as she reads from her prize-winning collections The Careless Seamstress and Mandible, and performs spoken word pieces from throughout her career, reflecting on life in Botswana, the United States, and England.

By foregrounding inquiry as a poetic practice, Dema invests the mundane with philosophy and ordinary beings with beauty while exploring ecopoetry, gender, race, disobedience, labor, mythology, and empathy.

Eventbrite listing

A Nature Almanac for the 21st Century

We had exciting news at the CEH this week as publishers Hodder & Stoughton announced they have commissioned Gifts of Gravity and Light: A Nature Almanac for the Twenty-first Century, co-edited by Dr Pippa Marland (Bristol, Department of English) and Anita Roy. The collection features Dr Michael Malay (Bristol, Department of English), alongside some of the most exciting voices in contemporary nature writing.

We’re pleased to share the press release here:


Hodder & Stoughton has commissioned Gifts of Gravity and Light: A Nature Almanac for the Twenty-first Century, which will take the reader, season by season, through one year of the natural world in all its biodiversity, as experienced by those who, for reasons of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class, upbringing or disability, are not always seen or heard when it comes to nature writing. Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo will write the foreword and the title is taken from a poem by the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage.

These writers come to the natural world from a different place to the ‘traditional’ nature writer, so the reader will see the seasons through new eyes, focusing on details that have perhaps previously gone unnoticed, or finding nature in places we’ve not thought to look before. Whether it’s the seashore or an inner-city street corner, the natural world is a part of our daily lives, just as we are all part of nature.

Hodder & Stoughton acquired world rights and will publish Gifts of Gravity and Light in July 2021.

Hodder Non-Fiction Publisher Rupert Lancaster explains:

‘Nature writing is one of the most popular genres today and yet it is still disproportionately dominated by writers from very similar backgrounds, making it something of a literary monoculture. Anita Roy and Pippa Marland were so positive when I approached them with this idea and are creating something very special. It feels like a book that is needed, so I’m very proud that Hodder is the publisher.’

Editors Anita Roy and Pippa Marland comment:

Gifts of Gravity and Light will explore a year of nature in ways that will challenge and inspire the reader to look again at what is around us. We wanted to include authors who are well known, though not necessarily as nature writers, as well as relatively new voices. All are from diverse backgrounds and we believe will offer fresh perspectives in a genre that often feels predictable in all sorts of ways.’

The contributors each write about a season that has a special resonance for them:


Kaliane Bradley is an Anglo-Cambodian writer, editor and dance/theatre critic based in London. Her work has appeared in Catapult, The Willowherb Review, The Tangerine, Somesuch Stories and Granta, among others. 

Pippa Marland, co-editor of this collection, writes on the spring equinox (see biog below).

Testament is a Hip Hop MC, beatboxer and the author of the play Black Men Walking, which was inspired by the Sheffield Black Men Walk for Health group and by historical documentation of black walkers in the Peak District centuries ago.


Michael Malay was shortlisted for the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize. He grew up in Indonesia and Australia and has written for The Clearing and Dark Mountain. He is working on a new book entitled Late Light

Tishani Doshi is an acclaimed dancer, poet and novelist of mixed Gujarati and Welsh parentage. Her latest poetry collection, Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award, and her recent novel Small Days and Nights was shortlisted for the RCA Ondaatje Award.

Jay Griffiths is an award-winning author of more than six critically acclaimed books, including Wild: An Elemental Journey. She is a passionate advocate for the living world and the cultures that protect it. She lives in Wales.


Luke Turner’s first book, Out of the Woods, was shortlisted for the 2019 Wainwright Prize for nature writing and longlisted for the Polari Prize for first book by an LGBT+ writer. He is co-founder and editor of The Quietus.

Anita Roy, co-editor of this collection, writes on the autumn equinox (see biog below).

Raine Geoghegan is a prize-winning author, poet and story-teller of Welsh, Irish and Romany descent. She has recently explored her Romany heritage in two poetry collections: Apple Water: Povel Panni and they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog.


Zakiya Mckenzie was chosen in 2019 to be a writer-in-residence for Forestry England. A passionate spokeswoman for trees, she was born in London, grew up in Jamaica and now lives in Bristol where she is studying for her PhD.

Alys Fowler is an urban nature writer who combines horticulture, biology and biography in her journalism and in her acclaimed book Hidden Nature, which traces both the Birmingham canals and her coming out as a gay woman.

Amanda Thomson is a Scottish visual artist and writer of who teaches at the Glasgow School of Art. Her vivid collection of words and images, from an owl’s call on a summer’s evening (“huam”) to walking in wet mud (“splorroch”), make up her first book, A Scots Dictionary of Nature. Her writing has been published in the anthology Antlers of Water, the Willowherb Review and in Gutter magazine. 


Anita Roy is a writer, editor and publisher of mixed British and Indian heritage. She spent twenty years living and working in New Delhi, until returning to the UK in 2015. Her work has appeared in Granta, Guernica, The Clearing and Dark Mountain. She has recently published an acclaimed novel for children and the nature diary A Year at Kingcombe: The Wildflower Meadows of Dorset.

Pippa Marland is an author and academic, whose research focuses on the nature writing genre, especially the representation of small islands and farming communities. Her creative writing draws on her childhood experiences of living in Ghana, Malta, West Wales, and the South of England, as well as her lifelong islomania. Her work has appeared in Earthlines, The Clearing, and the forthcoming Women on Nature.

For more information please contact:

Maria Garbutt-Lucero

Hodder & Stoughton, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DZ