Scientific analogy and literary taxonomy in Darwin's Loves of the Plants

Porter, D. (2007) Scientific analogy and literary taxonomy in Darwin's Loves of the Plants. European Romantic Review, 18(2), pp. 213-221. (doi: 10.1080/10509580701297950)

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This essay situates Eramus Darwin's wildly popular annotated poem Loves of the Plants (1789) alongside Francis Bacon's suggestions for applying inductive method to emotions, Wordsworth's parody of empiricism in “The Thorn,” and the function of footnotes in eighteenth‐century satires and georgics. Within this framework, I show that Darwin's text forges relations through analogy, an empiricist procedure shared by eighteenth‐century natural and moral philosophy. While Darwin exploits this conjunction to create an outlet for his radical analogical science, melding literary and scientific practice threatens to reveal knowledge built on empirical method as, at bottom, the product of rhetorical figures. I argue that the disjunctive format and formal components of Darwin's poem—and mental gymnastics they require of readers—are calculated to forestall the collapse of scientific analogy into its literary counterparts of metaphor and simile.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Porter, Dr Dahlia
Authors: Porter, D.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:European Romantic Review
Publisher:Taylor and Francis (Routledge)
ISSN (Online):1740-4657
Published Online:13 April 2007

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