Botany and Romantic Culture
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright
List of Illustrations
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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 WisconsinâMadison, the Marjorie and Lorin Tiefenthaler Fund, the English Department, the...
List of Abbreviations
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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
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Published after three centuries of European exploration and taxonomic activity around the globe, Henri Baillonâs exhaustive classification of the Euphorbia, a large plant family with many exotic species and genera, offers the extraordinary admission, quoted above, that âit is the struggle . . . against infinite nature.â Precisely...
3. Botanyâs Publics and Privates
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In January 1814, the month and year in which Wordsworth and others wrote poems of thanksgiving for Napoleonâs 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 âex Empressâ of...
4. Botanizing Women
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Jacques Le Moyne de Morguesâs sixteenth-century drawing titled âA Young Daughter of the Pictsâ and J. J. Grandvilleâs 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. Clareâs Commonable Plants
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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, âbeating the boundsâ to mark how plants are distinctive in themselves and in habitat. Mabeyâs recognition that he made, rather than found, his sense of place in the Chilterns...
INTERLUDE ONE: Malaâs Garden: A Caribbean Interlude
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Set on a Caribbean island modeled on Trinidad, sometime near the end of the colonial era, Shani Mootooâs 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
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In these lines from âDesign of a Treatise on the Plants of India,â 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
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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
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Read against each other, the above quotationsâtwo from Hegel, one from Goetheâ bristle with differences that separate Goetheâs view of plant nature from Hegelâs 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...
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Richard Mabeyâs reminiscence in Nature Cure of plant hunting with friends in the CÃ©vennes in southwestern France begins here and then returns, in echoing folds of seductive prose, to the impulse to identify and name orchidsâspecies of the Orchis genusâas though in naming them one might for a moment fix identities...
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Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 49 color illus.
Publication Year: 2012