Resisting Gardens: Pedagogy & Natural History in Eighteenth-Century Women’s Literature

This monograph argues for the emergence of an alternative discourse of science in the eighteenth century that distinguishes itself rhetorically and methodologically from the dominant professional discourse of science in the period. Embracing the kind of affiliation with nature that contemporary critical plant theory endorses, this eighteenth-century discourse is multigeneric and multivalent, offering opportunities for women’s intellectual engagement both within and outside of texts. The book includes chapters on Elizabeth Blackwell & Henrietta Maria Moriarty, Eliza Haywood & Charlotte Lennox, Mary Delany, Priscilla Wakefield & Maria Jacson, Maria Edgeworth, and Charlotte Smith. Support for this project has been provided by Tufts University, McMaster University Archives, and the Newberry Library.

Image right: Mary Delany, "Moss Provence Rose," British Library

Moss Provence Rose Delany.jpg

Flora Abroad: Eighteenth-Century Women and Colonial Botany

I have also begun preliminary work on a second book project. This project traces the writings and illustrations of women who studied the natural world in the Caribbean, America, Canada, and other European colonies. Featuring works by Lydia Byam, Maria Riddell, Jane Colden, Maria Graham, and Catherine Jérémie, among others, this project centralizes their distinctive perspective on indigenous biota and studies their unique contributions to the elite botanical conversations circulating throughout global scientific networks. I argue that their de-privileged position in scientific circles actually provided different levels of access to local botanical knowledge, including, for example, indigenous knowledge of abortifacients in the Caribbean. By focusing on women in the colonies, this project looks to de-center traditional accounts of women’s scientific progress and participation as it emphasizes the significance of their marginal positions to their own work. 

Image left: Lydia Byam, "Avocado Pear," Oak Spring Garden Library.


Women’s Periodicals and the Philosophical Girl

Another book project explores several periodical publications throughout the eighteenth century that combine entertainment with education in often complex ways. By re-envisioning existing literary forms in the already miscellaneous genre of the periodical, authors and editors create new pedagogical tactics for women as readers and contributors. I ultimately want to complicate our vision for the role periodicals may have played in shaping women’s lived experience in the period. Featured periodicals include, among others, The Lady's Museum, Epistles for the Ladies, The Lady's Magazine, and The New Ladies Magazine. Support for this project has been provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the University of Illinois Rare Book & Manuscript Library Velde Visiting Scholar Award.

Image right: from The New Lady's Magazine


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