Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Nancy Yousef

Committee Members

Alan Vardy

Alexander Schlutz

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | Environmental Studies | Leisure Studies | Literature in English, British Isles


contemplation, poetry, Romanticism, poetics, leisure, ecocriticism


This dissertation argues that contemplation is often overlooked in studies of British Romantic poetry. By the late 1700s, changing commercial and agricultural practices, industrialism, secularization, and utilitarianism emphasizing industriousness coalesced to uproot established discourses of selfhood and leisure, and effected crises of individuation in Romantic poetry and poetics. Closely reading poems and writing about poetry composed between the 1780s and 1830s by William Cowper, George Crabbe, Robert Bloomfield, Charlotte Smith, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and John Stuart Mill, I probe the relationship between aesthetic, ethical, and emotional responses to depictions of toil, idleness, and leisure. I argue that ecologies of contemplation champion poetry as essential to a modernizing culture rethinking the conditions and meaning of everyday life. Drawing not only from discourses in literary criticism and theory, political philosophy, economics, psychology, and theology, this dissertation’s interdisciplinary approach stresses the broader significance of robust academic debate on the role of culture and the stewardship of art and nature in periods of social crisis.