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Abstract

This dissertation analyzes the prevalence of seasons in British literature throughout the eighteenth century—from Alexander Pope’s pastorals (1709) to Mary Wollstonecraft’s _Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark_ (1796). Partly because of their conspicuous and enduring nature, seasons have long been taken for granted as a straightforward theme or motif, but eighteenth-century literature, I argue, reveals how seasons were a way of attending to climate and also climate change. Eighteenth-century writers used seasons to register the variability of daily weather over the long term, shifting between temporal scales to discern quotidian variation as the possible effect of large-scale change. In this dissertation, I focus on the multiple temporalities of seasons—often their perennial or recurrent cyclicality—and the ways in which climate can be understood as a text or “book of nature” to be read and mediated. I dedicate each chapter of the dissertation to a season—spring, summer, autumn, and winter—and turn to several genres—didactic literature for children, georgics, sonnets, and an epistolary travel narrative—to show how seasons help readers and writers examine climate and concepts that seemed to exist beyond human experience, but are still very much connected to it.

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