Making a third place
: the science and the poetry of husbandry

  • Dawn Wood

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


It locally contains or heaven, or hell;
There’s no third place in’t.
(Webster 1993)

Husbandry in its original sense is a ‘being together’, based on dwelling in a particular place. There is an intricate connection between modern science and industrialised agriculture, both of which developed on the basis of particular values associated with Good Husbandry – those which focused on individual innovation, profit-related productivity, quantitative measurement, objective, ‘puritan’ truth and control of nature. Ideals of the earth as a ‘commonwealth’, and of traditional stewardship, were down-played. The writings of Francis Bacon provide an example of a positivist, pioneering attitude which has continued to underpin modern science. In retrospect, however, these ideals sound rather onesided. Nature herself is not well represented in the modern science relationship. In this thesis, Virgil’s Georgics and Lucretius’ de rerum natura are used to derive a poetics of Being and of Husbandry, which applies not only to the world of poetry, but to events which underlie scientific research. Virgil’s use of verbs verifies that life’s activities are shared by all living things. Lucretius asserts that even inanimate atoms both exist in themselves and are creative. ‘To be’ can be visualised as a dynamic, balancing act between striving to stay in being and longing to engage creatively with another. The basis of this thesis is that a shaping of research towards good husbandry involves a fair relationship with nature, which in turn involves the acknowledgement in writing that nature is active, dynamic and a good collaborator. Husbandry defined as a continually unfolding third place between extremes or between self and other – this holistic, concentric definition – applies at all scales, all levels of experience. This work was derived from practice-led research involving the writing of poetry and therefore the findings exist in parallel
as a sequence of poems.
Date of AwardJul 2008
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsThe Carnegie Trust
SupervisorJohn W. Palfreyman (Supervisor)


  • Husbandry of nature
  • Philosophy of science
  • Virgil's Georgics
  • Lucretius

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