Hester Pulter frequently mentions dunghills, often using the word as an adjective to describe the earth. The dunghill might not appear to require much glossing, but its seventeenth-century meanings were more nuanced—literally, layered—than we might expect. While some of Pulter's contemporaries used "dunghill" to describe what we might call a dump—the final destination of garbage—they most often used the words "dunghill" and "muckheap" to describe repositories where organic matter of various kinds was gathered and transformed into compost to enrich soil. In the seventeenth century, this kind of dunghill—a matrix as well as a grave—was revalued and promoted as part of a larger reconsideration of waste as resource. The generative dunghill models Pulter's poetic process (recombining, ruminating, and revising) as well as the accretive and collaborative process that is the online edition called The Pulter Project. Seeing the dunghill as a creative process challenges divisions between elite poetry and agricultural labor, figural and literal, and even this life and the next. This essay's inquiry into the material history and figural resonances of the dunghill aspires not just to deepen our understanding of one of Pulter's keywords but also to interrogate the principles behind glossing and assembling "curations" for the online Pulter Project.


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pp. 16-42
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