Epistemic images and vital nature: Darwin's Botanic Garden as image text book

Porter, D. (2018) Epistemic images and vital nature: Darwin's Botanic Garden as image text book. European Romantic Review, 29(3), pp. 295-308. (doi: 10.1080/10509585.2018.1465717)

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This essay considers the function of images in Erasmus Darwin’s Botanic Garden (1789, 1791) by drawing on recent work in the history of science. I argue that the full-page intaglio prints of plants in Darwin’s book function as “epistemic images” by propounding a visual argument about organic life. The epistemic values embedded in the images of plants—specifically, the appearance of life and motion—are the result of artists’ engraving techniques deployed in the service of eighteenth-century aesthetic conventions. These conventions allow the images to align the knowledge claims of Darwin’s allegorical verse with those put forward in the prose notes. In conclusion, I suggest this method of unearthing the epistemic values of images could be productively extended to literary texts less obviously engaged with scientific debates of the time.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Porter, Dr Dahlia
Authors: Porter, D.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:European Romantic Review
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1740-4657
Published Online:11 June 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor and Francis Group
First Published:First published in European Romantic Review 29(3): 295-308
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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