Linnaeus, Analogy and Taxonomy: Botanical Naming and Categorization in Erasmus Darwin and Charlotte Smith

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Abstract

This essay considers the challenges of communicating botanical information in scientific and literary texts written between 1735 and 1807. Looking at the systematic botany established b yCarl Linnaeus and its representation in Erasmus Darwin’s Loves of the Plants (1789) and Charlotte Smith’s Conversations Introducing Poetry (1804) and Elegiac Sonnets (1784-1800), it argues for the centrality of analogy to reading and learning natural history in this period. Analogy is shown to be central to didactic poetry and to thinking about the specialist perception and replication of plants. The essay explores how two kinds of categorical system, language and plants, are made analogous by Linnaeus, and poets such as Darwin, through figures such as personification and through a more abstract system of classification through designation. Through a consideration of these analogical connections and the perceptual mimesis of plants, evidence is demonstrated for an approach to botanical poetry that is an unique product of Linnaean botany.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-124
Number of pages24
JournalPhilological Quarterly
Volume95
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2016

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