Abstract

The early modern epistemic overlap between plant and person, Feerick’s article demonstrates, can expand critical work on early modern race both in and beyond Shakespearean drama. It centers upon an analysis of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, a play that brings plant bodies and human bodies into dizzying dramatic collision. In contrast to critics of the Enlightenment who have argued that the drive to classify plants into phyla and species helped to shape epistemologies of human difference, both gendered and racialized, this article works backward, examining how the premodern logic of botany helped to constitute a different racial idiom. During this pre-Linnaean taxonomic moment when natural history emerged as a discipline defined by its fascination with the particulars of nature but also by its reluctance to systematize nature, Renaissance naturalists espoused anthropomorphic classificatory principles, importing attributes of the social realm to define the relationships among plants. Titus Andronicus adapts many of these classifying principles, using them to work through a set of social contradictions implicated in the production of competing notions of human difference. Feerick’s argument is not merely that botanical imagery pervades the drama as a charged thematic. Rather, it suggests ways in which dramatic literature uses both the “natural” hierarchies thought to inform botanical form and specific horticultural practices like grafting to resolve conflicting notions of how humans differ in kind. The early modern category of race, this article ultimately argues, has much more to do with bloodlines than criticism has thus far allowed and that attention to early modern theories of plant physiology can help scholars begin to appreciate this difference.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-3377
Print ISSN
0743-6831
Pages
pp. 82-102
Launched on MUSE
2009-04-11
Open Access
No
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