Linnaeus's Blooms

Amy M. King

in Bloom

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195161519
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787838 | DOI:
 Linnaeus's Blooms

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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Novels written in the 18th and 19th centuries are filled with depictions of girls “blooming” or “in bloom” — from Frances Burney's Evelina, whose blooming complexion attracts libertines and suitors alike, to John Cleland's Fanny Hill, whose bloom is explicitly tied to sexual initiation. The prevalence of this figurative language of “bloom” and the ease with which botanical facts are matched with female physiology raises the question: whence does it arise, and what gives it its sustaining power as a method for depicting nascent female sexuality in the marriage plots of the 19th-century novel? This chapter answers this question by looking at the newly sexualized botany of Linnaeus and his mid-18th-century exegetes, where aesthetic practice and scientific classification meet, and where the novel subsequently finds a significant register for discussing and disposing of female destinies.

Keywords: girl; bloom; female sexuality; English novels; botanical culture; marriage

Chapter.  16820 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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