" 'In the cowslips peeps I lye': Romantic Botany and Telling the Time of Day by the Light of the Anthropocene"
Abstract: What can Romantic-period botanical writings contribute to contemporary phenological study at a time when catastrophic climate change means the dissociation of former synchronies between pollinators and flowering plants? Recent work on Romantic-era botany has shed new light on Romantic-period accounts of the interactions between plants and humans, questioning the supposed immobility of plants and, with it, the supposed groundedness of Romantic nature. In this talk I shift away from the cosmopolitan mobility of Erasmus Darwin’s portable, greenhouse plants, and return instead to the relatively circumscribed movements of pollinating winds and insects. Drawing on Rousseau’s anti-essentializing definition of “flower” as a relative window of time or season of fertility, I ask what would it mean to count time in flower-hours, or to practice Clare’s art of reading the landscape for temporal cues, in an age defined by honeybee die-off, post-seasonality, and profound climate instability.
Reception in the Thorp Library following talk.