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Romantic Ecologies and Colonial Cultures in the British Atlantic World, 1770-1850

Romantic Ecologies and Colonial Cultures in the British Atlantic World, 1770-1850

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 240
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    Romantic Ecologies and Colonial Cultures in the British Atlantic World, 1770-1850
    Book Description:

    By addressing these and other intriguing questions, Kevin Hutchings highlights significant intersections between Green Romanticism and colonial politics, demonstrating how contemporary understandings of animality, climate, and habitat informed literary and cross-cultural debates about race, slavery, colonialism, and nature in the British Atlantic world. Revealing an innovative dialogue between British, African, and Native American writers of the Romantic period, this book will be of interest to anyone wishing to consider the interconnected histories of transatlantic colonial relations and environmental thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7681-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Politics and Poetics of Green Romanticism (pp. 3-32)

    The eighteenth-century Scottish moral philosopher and economist Adam Smith offers this analysis of the word “green” as part of a speculative treatise on the origins of language. Although he merely intends to illustrate the proposition that nouns entered the human lexicon prior to the formulation of their modifying adjectives, Smith’s choice of “green” as his exemplary modifier is highly suggestive. With his lexical insights in mind, Romanticists might well contemplate the claims of “Green Romanticism,” a mode of analysis involving the application of ecological criticism (or “ecocriticism”) to the study of Romantic texts and contexts. Granting Smith's argument that the...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Naturalizing Colonial Relations in the British Atlantic World: Slavery as Fact and Figure (pp. 33-49)

    In 1725, a group of French missionaries met with a council of Native Americans at Mobile, Alabama, hoping to find potential converts. When asked whether or not the Indians wished to abandon their own beliefs and become Christians, a Taensas chief responded with an enigmatic story of human racial origins:

    Long ago … there were three men in a cave, one white, one red and one black. The white man went out first and he took the good road that led him into a fine hunting ground … The red man who is the Indian, for they call themselves in...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Race and Animality in the British Atlantic World (pp. 50-69)

    Quoted from the Preface to Samuel Jackson Pratt’s popular poemHumanity, or, the Rights of Nature(1788), my epigraph for this chapter affirms its author’s belief that slavery could take numerous forms, all of which needed to be resisted by people of humane conscience no matter where they dwelt. Although Pratt’s book is primarily concerned to combat the problem of human slavery, its subtitle, as R.S. White notes, suggests that it is not only humans whose rights must be zealously guarded and upheld, but “all natural creatures” as well (2005, 227–8). The book thus articulates an ethic comprehending both...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Gender, Environment, and Imperialism in William Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion (pp. 70-91)

    When William Blake engravedVisions of the Daughters of Albionin 1793, he deliberately stepped into the contentious contemporary debate regarding the role and rights of women in British society. Only a year earlier, Mary Wollstonecraft had publishedA Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a manifesto that sparked much outrage in polite British society due to its outspoken critique of the institution of marriage; a critique in which she compared European wives to such things as spaniels, prostitutes, and slaves. One of Wollstonecraft’s central strategies involved questioning the notion that women were sentimental creatures, naturally relying on the men...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Enslaved Brutes and Brutalized Slaves: Animal Rights and Abolition in Coleridge and the Black Atlantic (pp. 92-112)

    From the Romantic period to postmodern times, animal rights advocacy has provoked strong responses on both sides of the Atlantic. Not uncommonly, skeptics have regarded concerns for animal rights as irresponsible at best and misanthropic at worst. Such views may occasionally be justified, as in instances when the prevention of cruelty to animals is accomplished at the cost of human welfare or life.¹ But the notion that concern for animal well-being is part of a zero-sum game thatnecessarilyentails a disregard for social justice is highly problematic, for the histories of human and animal rights are closely intertwined. When...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Environmental Determinism and the Politics of Nature: William Richardson’s The Indians, A Tragedy (pp. 113-133)

    In the previous two chapters, I focused primarily upon the relationship between Romantic concepts of nature (including animality) and human slavery in order to consider some of the ways in which Green Romantic concerns are complicated by an engagement with transatlantic cultural politics. In this chapter, I shift my focus from the politics of the Middle Passage to the politics of Native America, for the colonial contexts of the latter, as noted in Chapters One and Two, share numerous similarities with those of the former. It is worth reminding readers that, in the wake of abolition, many anti-slavery activists redirected...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Thomas Campbell’s American Idyll: Colonial Ideology in Gertrude of Wyoming (pp. 134-153)

    As noted in the previous chapter, Thomas Campbell’sGertrude of Wyoming(1809) shares much in common with Richardson’sThe Indians: A Tragedy(1790). Not only do both works apply the conventions of romance to colonial subject matter but, in their representations of contact between European and aboriginal peoples, they each explore a variety of encounters ranging from harmonious interchange to violent confrontation. On the topic of violence, in particular, Richardson’s drama anticipates the concerns of Campbell’s poem by invoking an Indian “massacre” of peaceful white settlers, whose only (though not insignificant) crime, it seems, is the desire to escape Europe’s...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Romanticism, Colonialism, and the “Natural Man” in the Writings of Sir Francis Bond Head and George Copway (pp. 154-175)

    When Sir Francis Bond Head (1793–1875) arrived in the colonial backwater of Toronto in 1836,³ his mind was filled with Romantic notions of savagery, civility, and the “natural man.” In and of itself, this Romanticism was hardly surprising. Although he had risen up through the ranks of the British military prior to his brief Canadian emigration, Sir Francis had also established himself as a reputable man of letters, having published several popular books on travel and social commentary with the renowned publisher John Murray.⁴ According to one contemporary biographer, Coleridge had praised “‘the Anglo-gentlemanly, sensible, and kindly mind breaking...

  12. AFTERWORD: Colonialism and Ecology (pp. 176-186)

    Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century theories of environmental determinism often had profoundly negative implications for the colonial world, in part because they tended to deny the reality of indigenous agency and self-determination. As noted in Chapter One, William Robertson’s claim that “the improvident savage,” “[l]ike a plant or animal … is formed by the climate under which he is placed” (1777, 2.169), provides a classic example of such thinking, according to which indigenous people become, like the flora and fauna of the ecosystems they inhabit, mere passive productions of an active, forming nature. As val Plumwood observes, “we cannot come...

  13. Notes (pp. 187-200)
  14. Bibliography (pp. 201-218)
  15. Index (pp. 219-226)