ENG 299 Green Victoria

Department:  English
Faculty:  Cornelia Pearsall

Spring 2009

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.

greenhouses with pond and heron sculpture
I enjoyed how the two academic worlds came together, and it gave me new insight into examining literature with a more focused, scientific perspective.


Smith College student