2012 British Women Writers Conference, Boulder, Colorado
Special Session: "Landmarks in Nineteenth-Century Natural History: Texts and Landscapes"
Over the course of the nineteenth century, a number of landmark works of natural history—which constitute what we might now call biological and geological sciences—dramatically altered how British society viewed the natural world. Natural “monuments” (as Georges Cuvier put it), such as geological strata or fossils, were increasingly interpreted as signifying marks on the face of the landscape that needed to be interpreted and understood. How did women writers engage with these frequently changing natural and textual landmarks? What implications do such landmarks hold for individuals’ and societies’ notions of self and of history, relationships to each other and to nature, and production of artistic and of scientific works? Charles Darwin’s writings have often been considered by literary scholars interested in how women writers reflected, negotiated, and participated in nineteenth-century scientific discourse, and papers exploring Darwin in light of the theme of this panel are welcome, but those focusing on other landmark Romantic or Victorian natural histories are particularly encouraged.