Romantic Science

The Literary Forms of Natural History

Edited by Noah Heringman

Subjects: Romanticism
Series: SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Paperback : 9780791457023, 296 pages, July 2003
Hardcover : 9780791457016, 296 pages, July 2003

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Figures

A Note About the Cover


Introduction: The Commerce of Literature and Natural History
Noah Heringman

Part I: The Boundaries of Natural History

1. "Twin Labourers and Heirs of the Same Hopes": The Professional Rivalry of Humphry Davy and William Wordsworth
Catherine E. Ross

2. The Rock Record and Romantic Narratives of the Earth
Noah Heringman

3. "Great Frosts and . . . Some Very Hot Summers": Strange Weather, the Last Letters, and the Last Days in Gilbert White's The Natural History of Selborne
Stuart Peterfreund

Part II: The Global Reach of Natural History

4. Jefferson's Thermometer: Colonial Biogeographical Constructions of the Climate of America
Alan Bewell

5. Robinson Crusoe's Earthenware Pot: Science, Aesthetics, and the Metaphysics of True Porcelain
Lydia H. Liu

6. Frankenstein, Racial Science, and the "Yellow Peril"
Anne K. Mellor

Part III: Botany, Taxonomy, and Political Discourse

7. Lyrical Strategies, Didactic Intent: Reading the Kitchen Garden Manual
Rachel Crawford

8. Romantic Exemplarity: Botany and "Material" Culture
Theresa M. Kelley

9. Taxonomical Cures: The Politics of Natural History and Herbalist Medicine in Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton
Amy Mae King

About the Contributors


Uncovers the vital role that new scientific discoveries played in Romantic literary culture.


Although "romantic science" may sound like a paradox, much of the romance surrounding modern science—the mad scientist, the intuitive genius, the utopian transformation of nature—originated in the Romantic period. Romantic Science traces the literary and cultural politics surrounding the formation of the modern scientific disciplines emerging from eighteenth-century natural history. Revealing how scientific concerns were literary concerns in the Romantic period, the contributors uncover the vital role that new discoveries in earth, plant, and animal sciences played in the period's literary culture. As Thomas Pennant put it in 1772, "Natural History is, at present, the favourite science over all Europe, and the progress which has been made in it will distinguish and characterise the eighteenth century in the annals of literature. " As they examine the social and literary ramifications of a particular branch or object of natural history, the contributors to this volume historicize our present intellectual landscape by reimagining and redrawing the disciplinary boundaries between literature and science.

Contributors include Alan Bewell, Rachel Crawford, Noah Heringman, Theresa M. Kelley, Amy Mae King, Lydia H. Liu, Anne K. Mellor, Stuart Peterfreund, and Catherine E. Ross.

Noah Heringman is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Missouri at Columbia.


"This book displays interpretive brilliance. A stunning array of methods are applied to an extraordinarily wide range of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts, involving new readings of canonical works. It dramatically clarifies the relationships between major figures of the period, and brings to light texts, contexts, and controversies that have not been confronted in such detail in previous scholarly studies. " — Donald Ault, author of Narrative Unbound: Re-Visioning William Blake's The Four Zoas