Date of Degree
Literature in English, British Isles
picturesque, aesthetics, cartography, affect, ecology, romanticism
This project puts forth the argument that when the late eighteenth century’s taste for nature and picturesque tourism had peaked, writers following in the picturesque tradition grappled with the limitations and confines of these aesthetic categories. In the chapters that follow, I present three authors, Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Mary Shelley, who are all dissatisfied with the conventions of the picturesque. Dorothy Wordsworth’s Alfoxden Journal (1798) demonstrates the nuances of the picturesque instability where distinctions between nature and the cultural production of nature have become muddied. I then examine three tour narratives in order to draw attention to how this moment of picturesque fatigue incites writers to complicate existing aesthetic tropes and establish new ways of representing nature. Dorothy Wordsworth’s Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland, A.D. 1803 encodes the landscape with a multi-representational topography, including her hand-drawn maps as an alternative medium of representing the Scottish Highlands. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796) reveals an ethical inquiry into the affective representation of the ill effects of human industry, including ecological disaster and cultural catastrophe. Mary Shelley’s Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842, and 1843 illustrates the tour narrative’s ultimate departure from traditional aesthetics, where a landscape inflamed with history’s violence and shaken by the belated shock of trauma cannot be measured or controlled by the picturesque.
Kappes, Gabrielle, "The Picturesque and Its Decay: The Travel Writing and Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Mary Shelley" (2020). CUNY Academic Works.