Problems with Plants: Symbolic and Cultural uses of Plants and Flowers in the 18th Century
Free Public Lecture
Macmahon Ball Theatre
Macgeorge Fellowship Public Lecture
For all the Enlightenment’s taxonomic endeavours – with its urge to contain and explain – for men and women in the 18th century, plants resolutely resisted stable and singular categorisation. Denoting high ideals and spiritual failures, natural femininity and manly republican virtues, 18th-century plants were the occasion for both seamless movements and radical disjunctions between abstract symbolism and sensual delight. Ranging from Biblical figs to unseen exotics, from troublesome weeds to the politics of flowers, and drawing on conduct books, spiritual diaries, Bluestocking letters and garden poetry from both sides of the Atlantic, this lecture explores the unsettling role of plants, and of flowers in particular, in the cultural imagination of the 18th century.
Image: South Lodge, Enfield (engraved by Charles Warren) c.1800.