Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2020


When a team of researchers in 2018 found that plants exposed to anesthesia appeared to lose consciousness, the press reported that plants might have a consciousness to lose. The ensuing debate revealed a gap between scientific and literary approaches to human and nonhuman consciousness that this article traces back to the botanical writing of the Romantic period. These concerns, I argue, are central to Elizabeth Kent’s Flora Domestica (1823) and Sylvan Sketches (1825), both botanical works that double as literary anthologies in order to expose a productive gap between literary and scientific knowledge. In a time when the distinction between science and poetry could frequently blur, Kent’s works navigate these boundaries with particular attention to the kinds of relationships each entails. In so doing, I argue, she advances an ethics of care attuned to consciousnesses beyond our understanding, rooted in the contested borderland between scientific and poetic knowledge.


This is the accepted version of the following article: “Sensitive Plants and Senseless Weeds: Plants, Consciousness, and Elizabeth Kent” (Essays in Romanticism: Volume 27, Issue 2 Liverpool University Press, October 2020), which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with the Liverpool University Press Self-Archiving Policy [].



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