Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Tracing shifting understandings of the role of waste in the creation of value in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, this study begins at the Stuart Restoration and the founding of the Royal Society as an adjunct to and engine for British commercial and imperial expansion, reading the reformist tracts of John Evelyn as ultimately abortive attempts at reconciling commerce with sustainability. Evelyn’s recommendations in Fumifugium for the removal of waste in the form of the fumes of the coal-burning trades from the city of London and its remaking as a kind of urban garden compete with John Dryden’s vision in Annus Mirabilis of the ruined city as a phoenix, “[n]ew deified,” shaking off its ashes as it takes flight after the Great Fire “into larger parts.” Far from advocating for the clearing away of the fire’s ashes, Dryden is preoccupied instead with parlaying the wreckage into an “enlarge[ement of England’s] way,” a project that culminates in a vision of maritime commercial triumph, the Thames laden with ships from east and west. It is Dryden’s vision that wins out, a reality Evelyn himself, in successive curtailments of his own initial vision in the four editions of Sylva published in his lifetime and in his abandoned history of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, seems to acknowledge, struggling to bring his environmental reforms in line with increasingly expansionist—and increasingly ruinous—Restoration foreign policy. In Mac Flecknoe, Dryden figures the literary culture the world he had foreseen at the end of Annus Mirabilis had given rise to as a nursery defined by its “lewd loves” and “polluted joys,” rendering its output as an uncontrollably expanding excretory “Pile,” a vision Jonathan Swift mockingly expands upon in reducing modern writing—and Dryden’s writing perhaps preeminently—to “Rheams of Verse” and “Bales of Paper” embodying a kind of material nullity. Swift populates the void in “A Description of a City Shower” with overflowing kennels carrying “[s]weepings from Butchers’ Stalls, Dung, Guts and Blood, | Drown’d Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench’d in Mud, | Dead Cats and Turnip-Tops,” as the sedimented layers of waste, far from being severable from the modern city, have come to form the very foundation of the brisk business of modernity.
Chair and Committee
Wolfram Schmidgen, Joseph Loewenstein, Robert Henke, Matthew Erlin,
Fernandez, Pedro, "Consuming Flame: Commerce, Waste and the Writing of Expansion, 1661–1730" (2020). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2316.
Available for download on Thursday, August 15, 2120