English 299: Green Victoria, Cornelia Pearsall
Drawing on the resources
of the Botanic Garden and library collections, this course explores a variety of landscapes
Victorians created or imagined, designed or desired.
Topics include the language of flowers, the
transplantation of the seeds and fruits of empire, and the fascination with processes of
decomposition. Readings include theoretical writings of Charles Darwin and John Ruskin, as
well as literary and visual representations of botanical longing or dislocation by such authors and
artists as Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Christina Rossetti, Dante
Gabriel Rossetti, Vanessa Bell, and Virginia Woolf.
Students write about connections they see
between these readings and plants and gardens observed in class. They also prepare brief
presentations on Victorian-era student botany notebooks from the Smith College Archives,
observe the responses of visitors to the spring Bulb Show, and examine fungi under the
microscope and at Smith's Fort Hill composting site.