UBC Theses and Dissertations
Pistils and stamens : botanophilia, sex, and nationhood in eighteenth-century Georgian Britain Calyniuk, Darlene Kay
Botanical spaces and their visual representations fascinated British viewing publics, particularly in the years 1760 to 1810 during the reign of King George III. This broad public interest in natural history’s new knowledge was fueled by the appeal of Carolus Linnaeus’s sexual system of classification, a taxonomy that held the promise of providing universal accessibility and rational order in the exploration of the natural world. The impetus that Linnaean taxonomies gave to botanical enterprise, however, was also unsettling. Natural history’s laws that claimed a taxonomic rationale capable of consistently regulating previous unknowns, in fact, raised ambiguities in relation to the artificiality of the Linnaean system and crucially, the concepts of affinity, hybridity, and variability. As a result, particularly in the last half of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, these Linnaean tenets threatened to destabilize status quos by mobilizing new anxieties around gender, sexuality, class, and race. In addition, Linnaean notions of oeconomia, that is, botanical resource utility, posed challenges to Britain’s cultural conventions and beliefs. At the broadest level, then, my dissertation explores the interchanges and attendant tensions between natural history’s new knowledge and emerging social anxieties in a period that was especially marked out by Britain’s significant loss of the American colonies and the threat of the French Revolution. More specifically, through examination of visual imagery, my thesis explores a conflicted ‘botanoscape’—one that reveals the ways in which visual representations and display of the botanical were central to the mediation and diffusion of anxieties opened up by Linnaeus’s new systematics and by ongoing transformations within the nation.
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