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Feb. 16, 2016


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Dr. Laura L. Runge
Office: CPR 360 D
Phone: 813-974-9496


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LIT 4930: Florida Lit and Culture


Class 13:Visit to Botanical Gardens


    Excerpt from William Bartram's Travels in Canvas
    Due: Post 7 group A, Response group B

Class Objectives:

    Practice nature observation in Florida setting
    Analyze historical construction of nature in Bartram

Notes and Discussion Questions:

    This class will meet at the USF Botanical Gardens in the parking area by the office. Please note that there is limited parking at the Botanical Gardens, and so we encourage you to carpool, ride a bicycle or take the Bullrunner shuttle. Route D stops at the Botanical Garden from the Library. Please be sure to get there before 11 am when class will begin.

    We will discuss writings of the eighteenth-century naturalist William Bartram. A PDF of Part II Chapter V from his Travels is available through Canvas.

    This important work was first published in 1791, though it reflects travels that Bartram embarked upon in the years 1772-1777. For those who require a refresher in history, this period (of writing and publishing) is marked by major revolutionary wars that affect the sovereignty of Florida. See Gannon for what this territory experienced.

    In Part II, the author travels to various trading posts in the Florida wilderness in search of plants and animals. Bartram is a naturalist and an artist, and his language is marked by rhetorics of both empiricism and the aesthetic. The contradictions and overlap of these rhetorics create a unique representation of the environment. The text interests us not only for its historical representation of the flora, fauna, topography and human inhabitants of eighteenth-century Florida, but also because the text has had continued influence on the ways that writers envision Florida. The brief editorial note to the Cosimo Classics edition, presumably by the well-known early 20th century poet/scholar Mark Van Doren, indicates that Bartram's text was a formative influence on Romantic era poets, such as Coleridge and Wordsworth.

    I believe that Bartram's text offers us an opportunity to identify some of the formative tensions in representing the land and people of Florida -- much of which has been altered beyond repair. (This is more true of the native Indian people than of anything else in the book.)

    As you read, mark the tensions in the rhetoric of the naturalist (the empirical impulse to quantify, label and break down into constituent parts) and that of aesthetics (most prominently the picturesque and the sublime, but also appearances of the gothic).

    Note any passages that raise questions for you or seem particularly worthy of further consideration.

    Also consider the tensions between the ostensible goals of furthering trade (commerce, development of the land and communities in Florida, a promotional rhetoric) and the awe and respect for the natural world born of his Quaker appreciation for God's creation.

    For your Google My Maps project, please chart this travel on a map and visualize where and how Bartram covers the landscape of Florida. Where is he going? This will be aided, in part, by the map(s) he drew and included in the Travels.

    William Bartram is almost as equally esteemed as a scientist as an artist, and his naturalist drawings and watercolors are astounding. You can view some here, and I will try to put some others in our course docs.

    Campbell McGrath identifies one of the prominent tensions in Bartram's work in the opening line of his poem: "How shall I Express myself so as to convey an Adequate Idea of it to the Reader, and yet avoid raising Suspicions of my Veracity" (36). What methods does Bartram use to work this balance? How might the illustrations play into this?

    Examine any picture for its scientific information and again for this artistic merit. What observations can you make?

    Similarly, choose a significant passage of description in Bartram's text and analyze it for its scientific information and again for its aesthetic value. What observations can you make?

    Notice the representation of Florida nature -- what time of year is he traveling? How is the climate? How is the weather? What surprises you or makes you wonder about this representation of Florida?

    I recommend using the glossary of terms that I have uploaded to course docs to help navigate your way through some of the Latin terms and names for various species. It will help ground your experience of what he is describing and you will realize that you are reading about the flora and fauna all around you.

    Bartram's use of perspective and point of view in this text require some consideration. How does he represent the subjectivity of others -- people, places, animals, in the text? What effect does this have?

    What doesn't Bartram describe that you might expect?


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