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Natures in Translation

Romanticism and Colonial Natural History

Alan Bewell

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Understanding the dynamics of British colonialism and the enormous ecological transformations that took place through the mobilization and globalized management of natures.

For many critics, Romanticism is synonymous with nature writing, for representations of the natural world appear during this period with a freshness, concreteness, depth, and intensity that have rarely been equaled. Why did nature matter so much to writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? And how did it play such an important role in their understanding of themselves and the world?

In Natures in…

Understanding the dynamics of British colonialism and the enormous ecological transformations that took place through the mobilization and globalized management of natures.

For many critics, Romanticism is synonymous with nature writing, for representations of the natural world appear during this period with a freshness, concreteness, depth, and intensity that have rarely been equaled. Why did nature matter so much to writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? And how did it play such an important role in their understanding of themselves and the world?

In Natures in Translation, Alan Bewell argues that there is no Nature in the singular, only natures that have undergone transformation through time and across space. He examines how writers—as disparate as Erasmus and Charles Darwin, Joseph Banks, Gilbert White, William Bartram, William Wordsworth, John Clare, and Mary Shelley—understood a world in which natures were traveling and resettling the globe like never before. Bewell presents British natural history as a translational activity aimed at globalizing local natures by making them mobile, exchangeable, comparable, and representable.

Bewell explores how colonial writers, in the period leading up to the formulation of evolutionary theory, responded to a world in which new natures were coming into being while others disappeared. For some of these writers, colonial natural history held the promise of ushering in a "cosmopolitan" nature in which every species, through trade and exchange, might become a true "citizen of the world." Others struggled with the question of how to live after the natures they depended upon were gone. Ultimately, Natures in Translation demonstrates that—far from being separate from the dominant concerns of British imperial culture—nature was integrally bound up with the business of empire.

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Natures in Translation

Alan Bewell

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Reviews

Reviews

Recommended.

I consider this critically innovative and beautifully written book essential reading not only for scholars and enthusiasts of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literatures, but for anyone interested in gaining new insights into the literary history of environmentalism.

... highly readable account...

Natures in Translation offers a sorely needed commentary on how Romantic thinkers understood the environment and represents a much-needed reminder of the possibilities interdisciplinary scholarship has to illuminate our understandings of environmental history... richly illustrated and evocatively argued...

One of the most authoritative and absorbing studies of the year is Alan Bewell's Natures in Translation: Romanticism and Colonial Natural History

See All Reviews
About

Book Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface

Introduction: Natures in Translation
1 Erasmus Darwin’s Cosmopolitan Nature
2 Traveling Natures
3 Translating Early Australian Natural History
4 An England of the Mind

List of Illustrations
Preface

Introduction: Natures in Translation
1 Erasmus Darwin’s Cosmopolitan Nature
2 Traveling Natures
3 Translating Early Australian Natural History
4 An England of the Mind: Gilbert White and the Black-bobs of Selborne.
5 William Bartram’s Travels and the Contested Natures of Southeast America
6 "I see around me things which you cannot see": William Wordsworth and the Historical Ecology of Human Passion
7 John Clare and The Ghosts of Natures Past
8 Of Weeds and Men: Evolution and the Science of Modern Natures
9 Frankenstein and the Origin and Extinction of Species

Notes
Works Cited
Index

Author Bio
Alan Bewell
Featured Contributor

Alan Bewell, Ph.D.

Alan Bewell is a professor and the chair of the Department of English at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Wordsworth and the Enlightenment: Nature, Man, and Society in the “Experimental” Poetry and Romanticism and Colonial Disease.