Regenerating Romanticism: Botany, Sensibility, and Originality in British Literature, 1750–1830

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University of Virginia Press, Apr 27, 2023 - Literary Criticism - 282 pages

Within key texts of Romantic-era aesthetics, William Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, and other writers and theorists pointed to the poet, naturalist, and physician Erasmus Darwin as exemplifying a lack of originality and sensibility in the period’s scientific literature--the very qualities that such literature had actually sought to achieve. The success of this strawman tactic in establishing Romantic-era principles resulted in the historical devaluation of numerous other, especially female, imaginative authors, creating misunderstandings about the aesthetic intentions of the period’s scientific literature that continue to hinder and mislead scholars even today.

Regenerating Romanticism demonstrates that such strategies enabled some literary critics and arbiters of Romantic-era aesthetics to portray literature and science as locked in competition with one another while also establishing standards for the literary canon that mirrored developing ideas of scientific or biological sexism and racism. With this groundbreaking study, Melissa Bailes renovates understandings of sensibility and its importance to the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century movement of scientific literature within genres such as poetry, novels, travel writing, children’s literature, and literary criticism that obviously and technically engage with the natural sciences.



Thomsons Progressive Time
Chronobiological Mechanisms
Botany Colonial Cannibalism
Sensibilities of Description
Place Sensibility and Originality
Anna Seward Sensibility and the Floral

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About the author (2023)

Melissa Bailes is Associate Professor of English at Tulane University and the author of Questioning Nature: British Women’s Scientific Writing and Literary Originality, 1750-1830 (Virginia).

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