Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor Peter Walmsley
The two terms "nature" and "culture" can suggest a binary or oppositional structure. The general objective of this doctoral dissertation is to investigate the historical conditions under which the nature/culture opposition was produced in eighteenth-century British writing. I examine a set of specific configurations taken by the historical nature/culture dichotomy, but I also investigate the connections and continuities between formations of nature and culture that this dichotomy, understood as an oppositional structure, would seem to disavow. The concrete points of intersection thus revealed between constructions of nature and culture at times threaten to disrupt the entire dichotomy. As I undertake this critique, I ask how we may rethink the boundaries of this structure. In separate chapters of this thesis, I select art, natural history, and health practices as topical sites in terms of which the boundaries between nature and culture are being delineated, often quite provisionally, during the eighteenth century. Art is particularly relevant to my aim of exploring the boundaries between nature and culture, as a central question in eighteenth-century debates about art was whether or not the art object should be considered an expression of human fashions or natural forms. I also examine natural history, for its subject matter typically bridged normative boundaries between human and natural; many naturalists who wrote general histories of particular regions not only investigated natural phenomena such as animals, their environments, and the weather, but also incorporated descriptions of human social and economic relations into their accounts. Finally, I investigate practices of health that mediated a complex set of relations between leisured people in search of better health, certain cultural conceptions of healthy bodies, and the natural environments that these practices depicted as a primary source of good human health. In practical terms, each of these sites produces a different form of the nature/culture dichotomy, and so provides a unique perspective from which to consider its general structure and limits.
LOEWEN, SHAWN, "CONTESTED STRUCTURES: NATURE AND CULTURE IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY WRITING" (2004). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1584.