The Garden Politic: Botany, Horticulture, and Domestic Cosmopolitanism in Nineteenth-Century American Literature


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation argues that the science and technology of plants was a crucial context for American literature across the nineteenth century, particularly Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Dickinson, and Charles Chesnutt. Cultivation has long been recognized as a crucial trope for self-improvement and social mobility, but no study has yet offered a sustained examination of the way that seemingly domestic writers invoked plant science to engage central social issues of the century: abolition, technology and the body, women’s rights, and the democratic use of space. This project demonstrates how seemingly domestic writers marshal an international botanical network to frame pressing local political controversies as a matter of natural law and transatlantic ecology.