Book ID: CBB259998433

Botanical Entanglements: Women, Natural Science, and the Arts in Eighteenth-Century England (2021)


To this day, women face barriers in entering scientific professions, and in earlier eras the challenges were greater still. But in Botanical Entanglements, Anna Sagal reveals how women’s active participation in scientific discourses of the eighteenth century was enabled by the manipulation of social and cultural conventions that have typically been understood as limiting factors. By taking advantage of the intersections between domesticity, femininity, and nature, the writers and artists studied here laid claim to a specific authority on naturalist subjects, ranging from botany to entomology to natural history more broadly. Botanical Entanglements pairs studies of well-known authors—Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Lennox, Maria Edgeworth, and Charlotte Smith—with authors and artists who receive less attention in this context—Priscilla Wakefield, Maria Jacson, Elizabeth Blackwell, Henrietta Maria Moriarty, and Mary Delany—to offer a nuanced portrait of the diverse strategies women employed to engage in scientific labor. Using socially acceptable forms of textual production, including popular periodicals, didactic texts, novels, illustrated works, craftwork, and poetry, these women advocated for more substantive and meaningful engagement with the natural world. In parallel, the book also illuminates the emotional and physical intimacies between women, plants, and insects to reveal an early precursor to twenty-first-century theorizing of plant intelligence and human-plant relationships. Recognizing such literary and artistic "entanglement" facilitates a more profound understanding of the multifaceted relationship between women and the natural world in eighteenth-century England.

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Authors & Contributors
George, Sam
Martin, Alison E.
Reiss, Timothy J.
Starr, Gabrielle
Siskind, Mariano
Altshuler, Bruce
History of Science
Journal of Literature and Science
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Intellectual History Review
University of Virginia Press
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Yale Center for British Art
Oxford University Press
Science and literature
Women in science
Science and gender
Nature and its relationship to culture; human-nature relationships
Science and art
Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle
Barbauld, Anna Letitia
Smith, Charlotte
Tollett, Elizabeth
Newton, Isaac
Conway, Anne
Great Britain
United States
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century
Early modern
20th century, early

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