Lactilla Tends her Fav’rite Cow brings together issues of gender, class and species through a study of a selection of poetry by five eighteenth-century British laboring-class women poets: Mary Collier, Mary Leapor, Elizabeth Hands, Ann Yearsley and Janet Little. Extending the feminist concept of ‘interlocking oppressions’ to include a consideration of the link between women and animals, Lactilla Tends her Fav’rite Cow suggests, ecocritically, that representations of nature are always more than mere imagination. By pairing laboring-class women poets and domesticated animals to read their representations as manifestations of oppression, Milne shows that both laboring-class women and animals are contained by conceptualizations and/or domesticating strategies that typically characterize them as laboring machines, as ‘mad’, and as pets.
Lactilla Tends her Fav’rite Cow benefits from the foundations set by earlier studies of laboring-class writers even as it extends their conclusions through the use of an explicitly ecocritical perspective. As well, Lactilla Tends her Fav’rite Cow’s specific focus on the eighteenth-century contributes to furthering the nascent ecocritical practice in eighteenth-century studies.
Anne Milne is an Assistant Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. Her research and writing focus on representations of animals and the labouring classes in restoration and eighteenth-century British texts, animal welfare, agrarian studies, ecocriticism, ecofeminism and environmental education.