London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group – 3 March 2017 3.30pm

London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 3rd March 2017

Christopher Smart & Empiricist Devotion

All welcome at this term’s second session of the London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 3.30-5 pm on Friday 3rd March. We will be in room 1.21 of the Franklin-Wilkins building, at King’s College London’s Waterloo Campus (map here).

Continuing with the theme ‘the everyday’ with readings put together by Ari Messer (PhD candidate, English & Humanities, Birkbeck), we will be looking at Christopher Smart’s The Hop-Garden (written 1742-43; first published 1752) – a georgic poem in blank verse about growing hops – and a chapter from Courtney Weiss Smith’s recent book that argues for an alternative view of the eighteenth-century georgic as an empirical-devotional mode. The readings are:

Christopher Smart, The Hop-Garden, in The Poetical Works of Christopher Smart, ed. Karina Williamson and Marcus Walsh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980-96), IV, pp. 41-65

Courtney Weiss Smith, Empiricist Devotions (London: University of Virginia Press, 2016), pp. 173-210.

Those with more time may also wish to look at a short chapter from Chris Mounsey’s book on Smart, which situates the poem as a comic, non-religious response to John Philips’s Cyder (1708):

Chris Mounsey, Christopher Smart: Clown of God (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2001), pp. 64-80.

All the readings are available online here.

The georgic was an ‘everyday’ mode of conversing about natural subjects such as agriculture in eighteenth-century Britain, but one which has only recently been put under the lens of historical poetics. Does The Hop-Garden participate in what Weiss identifies as ‘meditative empiricism’, or is it just a funny poem about farming?

The London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group is a student-run reading group organised in collaboration with the Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King’s and Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group. Staff and students at all London universities are very welcome. The reading group concentrates on a different theme each academic year, with an emphasis on primary texts and recent criticism. For more informations, view the reading group’s blog.

If you have any queries about the readings or the reading group, please contact Robert Stearn ( or Ari Messer (