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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  Francesca Gardner,

  United Kingdom

  English, St Catharine's College

  PhD thesis: Pastoral Competition After 1700.

  Research interests:
  1. Pastoral.
  2. The literary essay.
                                3. Milton's typology.
                                4. Machines and technography.

My PhD focuses on pastoral competition after 1700. There is little criticism on the singing contest trope outside of classical scholarship, particularly post-early modern period—my research hopes to fill in some of the gaps. I argue that pastoral competition in British poetry changes after the Pope-Philips dispute, which was conceived of as metatextual amoebean verse. The idea of pastoral as a competition between texts persists; competition is no longer only an intratextual trope (i.e., within pastoral poems), becoming a broader intertextual spirit permeating pastoral’s generic development. As subsequent poets competitively define and redefine pastoral, the singing contest also evolves from the playful—if at times ferocious—literary game it was in the early eighteenth century into a tool with which to examine the increasingly fraught socio-political stakes surrounding pastoral writing. The project also considers competitive dialogue’s interaction with pastoral innocence, and with well-known pastoral binaries (country/city, 'learned'/'unlearned', etc).

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?
As a keen birdwatcher growing up in Lincolnshire, my focus on pastoral arose out of an interest in conceptions and misconceptions of nature and rural life. In general, I am drawn to genre, close reading, and interdisciplinarity, and enjoy working within and across various methodologies and periods (further information on my research interests can be found at I am indebted to my undergraduate and MSt tutors and supervisors at the University of Oxford, from whom I have learned and continue to learn so much.