By Siobhan Carroll
Planetary areas reminiscent of the poles, the oceans, the ambience, and subterranean areas captured the British imperial mind's eye. Intangible, inhospitable, or inaccessible, those clean spaces—what Siobhan Carroll calls "atopias"—existed past the limits of recognized and inhabited locations. The eighteenth century conceived of those geographic outliers because the typical limits of imperial enlargement, yet medical and naval advances within the 19th century created new probabilities to grasp and keep watch over them. This improvement preoccupied British authors, who have been conversant in seeing atopic areas as otherworldly marvels in fantastical stories. areas that an empire couldn't colonize have been areas that literature may well declare, as literary representations of atopias got here to mirror their authors' attitudes towards the expansion of the British Empire in addition to the half they observed literature taking part in in that expansion.
Siobhan Carroll interrogates the function those clean areas performed within the development of British id in the course of an period of unsettling worldwide circulations. interpreting the poetry of Samuel T. Coleridge and George Gordon Byron and the prose of Sophia Lee, Mary Shelley, and Charles Dickens, in addition to newspaper debts and voyage narratives, she lines the methods Romantic and Victorian writers reconceptualized atopias as threatening or, every now and then, susceptible. those textual explorations of the earth's maximum reaches and mystery depths make clear chronic points of the British worldwide and environmental mind's eye that linger within the twenty-first century.
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Extra info for An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850
Northern Europeans looked to the Arctic for a Northwest Passage that could convey ships more easily to the South Seas and to the Antarctic for a continent that would rival that of the Americas. 28 As for the Antarctic regions, fifteenth-century European explorers had ventured past the equator and found tropical lands rather than antipodean reversals, leading many to look south for new sources of colonial wealth. “Terra Australis Incognita,” the fabled Southern Continent, appears on maps throughout the sixteenth century, testifying to contemporary hopes that a fertile southern land was on the brink of discovery.
75 While on the one hand, then, Cook’s elimination of the myth of Terra Australis Incognita was a blow to the imaginary voyage genre, it had by no means ceased speculation—either geographical or literary—about the poles. Brought to you by | provisional account Unauthenticated Download Date | 4/12/15 2:07 PM Po l a r Spec u l at io n s 37 The Ancient Mariner’s “Pre-occupied Ground” First published in 1798, S. T. Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is one of the most significant depictions of the South Pole to emerge in the wake of Cook’s expedition.
Robert Paltock’s The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins (1750), the last notable work to draw heavily on the myth of Terra Australis Incognita before its nondiscovery by Cook, warrants close examination. Arguably the most influential eighteenth-century vision of an undiscovered Southern Continent, Peter Wilkins synthesizes the speculations regarding the geography of the South Pole in a revision of Robinson Crusoe that challenges that novel’s visions of colonial profits. As with most early accounts of polar space, the polar realm is depicted as populated by beings with fantastic, hybridized bodies that implicitly challenge strict classification systems.
An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850 by Siobhan Carroll