Botany and Romantic Culture
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright
List of Illustrations
My work on the book has received generous support, beginning with fellowships from the University of Texas at Austin, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the Marjorie and Lorin Tiefenthaler Fund, the English Department, the...
List of Abbreviations
Writing in 1700 about Darien, the site of an early and soon abandoned Scottish colony in Panama, the botanist James Wallace insisted on a confusion that narratives of imperial conquest and taxonomic mastery rarely specify, except as a prompt to greater efforts to create a taxonomic home and name for those plants that seem...
2. Botanical Matters
Published after three centuries of European exploration and taxonomic activity around the globe, Henri Baillon’s exhaustive classification of the Euphorbia, a large plant family with many exotic species and genera, offers the extraordinary admission, quoted above, that “it is the struggle . . . against infinite nature.” Precisely...
3. Botany’s Publics and Privates
In January 1814, the month and year in which Wordsworth and others wrote poems of thanksgiving for Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, someone who signed himself as Botanicus sent to an unidentified correspondent a copy of a letter addressed to Josephine, whom Botanicus rather unnecessarily describes as the “ex Empress” of...
4. Botanizing Women
Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues’s sixteenth-century drawing titled “A Young Daughter of the Picts” and J. J. Grandville’s mid-nineteenth-century caricatures of women as flowers convey in snapshot a long iconographic tradition that personified women as flowering plants and becomes, at the far end of this tradition, the logic behind the...
5. Clare’s Commonable Plants
For John Clare in the 1820s and Richard Mabey writing 150 years later, thinking about plants means, as Mabey puts it in the second of these passages, “beating the bounds” to mark how plants are distinctive in themselves and in habitat. Mabey’s recognition that he made, rather than found, his sense of place in the Chilterns...
INTERLUDE ONE: Mala’s Garden: A Caribbean Interlude
Set on a Caribbean island modeled on Trinidad, sometime near the end of the colonial era, Shani Mootoo’s novel Cereus Blooms at Night, quoted above, imagines a Caribbean garden where the taxonomic names used to classify exotic plants for European readers have become oddly redundant. Mala Ramchandin is a descendant...
6. Reading Matter and Paint
In these lines from “Design of a Treatise on the Plants of India,” Sir William Jones declared what Indian and English readers in Calcutta and those back in England and on the Continent knew to be the case: the British who botanized in India did so for imperial gain, both scientific and economic. This bifurcation appears...
INTERLUDE TWO: A Romantic Garden: Shelley on Vitality and Decay
Two poems Percy Shelley wrote near the end of his life, The Sensitive-Plant (1820) and the unfinished Triumph of Life (1822), dramatize the embodied life and death of plants. I use the phrase embodied life to refer to material forms of life without claiming that those forms can be separated from mechanical or nonvital processes...
7. Restless Romantic Plants and Philosophers
Read against each other, the above quotations—two from Hegel, one from Goethe— bristle with differences that separate Goethe’s view of plant nature from Hegel’s claim that it must be subordinated to Spirit. Although the two writers are hardly the only ones in the romantic era to consider the nature of plant nature, their...
Richard Mabey’s reminiscence in Nature Cure of plant hunting with friends in the Cévennes in southwestern France begins here and then returns, in echoing folds of seductive prose, to the impulse to identify and name orchids—species of the Orchis genus—as though in naming them one might for a moment fix identities...
Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 49 color illus.
Publication Year: 2012
OCLC Number: 819379648
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