By Siobhan Carroll
Planetary areas comparable to the poles, the oceans, the ambience, and subterranean areas captured the British imperial mind's eye. Intangible, inhospitable, or inaccessible, those clean spaces—what Siobhan Carroll calls "atopias"—existed past the bounds of identified and inhabited areas. The eighteenth century conceived of those geographic outliers because the typical limits of imperial growth, yet clinical and naval advances within the 19th century created new chances to grasp and regulate them. This improvement preoccupied British authors, who have been familiar with seeing atopic areas as otherworldly marvels in fantastical stories. areas that an empire couldn't colonize have been areas that literature could declare, as literary representations of atopias got here to mirror their authors' attitudes towards the expansion of the British Empire in addition to the half they observed literature taking part in in that expansion.
Siobhan Carroll interrogates the function those clean areas performed within the development of British identification in the course of an period of unsettling international circulations. interpreting the poetry of Samuel T. Coleridge and George Gordon Byron and the prose of Sophia Lee, Mary Shelley, and Charles Dickens, in addition to newspaper money owed and voyage narratives, she strains the methods Romantic and Victorian writers reconceptualized atopias as threatening or, every now and then, susceptible. those textual explorations of the earth's maximum reaches and mystery depths make clear power points of the British international and environmental mind's eye that linger within the twenty-first century.
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Additional info for An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850
Greek myth accordingly populated the Arctic with the Hyperboreans, an immortal race who feasted daily in a land of plenty. The notion that the polar regions hide tropical lands—an idea that repeatedly surfaces in polar folklore, including in modern Canadian urban legends23—finds its roots in these tales of Hyperborean paradise. By 1577, the notion that the north contained habitable territory—an idea that had become entrenched in medieval travelers’ tales—prompted Queen Elizabeth to have a British claim to polar territory drawn up.
Cook’s superiors were not satisfied by his dismantling of Terra Australis Incognita, however. During the 1770s, Britain’s desire for new territories was exacerbated by American rebellion, and this desire finally outweighed the skepticism expressed by Cook and his fellow explorers. Cook was sent three times to search for the continent the ancients had insisted was needed to balance the earth and that their intellectual descendants insisted was needed to expand the empire. In 1773, having sailed farther south than any other explorer, a frustrated Cook wrote in his journal that he was “sorry” to have “spent so much time” “searching after .
One of our Company, looking overboard, saw a Mer-Maid. . ”34 Of what is now the most famous aspect of the Hudson story—the third voyage on which his crew mutinied—The Naval Chronicle has nothing to say, observing that of the “Differences between Hudson and his Men . . ”35 This last sentence reads almost as a parody in its casual dismissal of what would be, in a later era, acts of polar heroism: progressing farther than “any man has done before” and, like a new Adam, naming the places added to an ever-expanding map.
An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850 by Siobhan Carroll