Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.791591
Title: The poetic uses of Linnaean taxonomy from Erasmus Darwin to John Clare
Author: Edwall, Christy
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 6604
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Abstract:
This thesis challenges critical assumptions that Carl Linnaeus was a dulling if not malignant influence on Romantic poetry by exploring the ways in which Linnaean strategies of comparison and distinction, organisation and arrangement, enumeration and description find echoes in the poetry of Erasmus Darwin, William Wordsworth, and John Clare. As studies of Romantic science have proliferated in the last thirty years, research has investigated the gendered implications of the Linnaean system, as well as the imperial and commercial ramifications of botany's global networks. Other accounts of Linnaean botany and poetry have preferred classificatory slippages rather than taxonomy's possibilities. By contrast, this thesis argues that Linnaeus often looked at the natural world through a poetic lens, and that works such as his Philosophia botanica (1751) pay close attention to questions of language, an attention magnified by translations such as the Lichfield Botanic Society's System of Vegetables (1783-5), which boasted Samuel Johnson as a consultant. Among the Lichfield Botanic Society's three members was Erasmus Darwin, who produced the first thoroughly Linnaean poem, The Loves of the Plants (1789). Yet the poem's reputation as a work of literary artifice has fallen alongside Linnaeus's own sunken currency as the author of an 'artificial' system. On the other hand, William Wordsworth and John Clare have been regularly positioned as 'natural' poets in opposition to the 'peeping' botanist's compulsion for prying and collecting. In doing so, critics have overlooked both poets' Linnaean engagements. Challenging allegations of the imaginative failure of Linnaeus and his system, this thesis offers a reappraisal of Linnaeus and his reception in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Britain. By offering a reconsideration of the period's enthusiasm for Linnaeus and his system, it provides a more complex interpretation of Romantic responses to the natural world.
Supervisor: Stafford, Fiona Sponsor: New College ; Oxford ; Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.791591  DOI: Not available
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