‘The vagaries of a Rafinesque’: imagining and classifying American nature

Endersby, Jim (2009) ‘The vagaries of a Rafinesque’: imagining and classifying American nature. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 40 (3). pp. 168-178. ISSN 1369-8486

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Abstract

Some early nineteenth-century American naturalists condemned their contemporary, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840), as 'eccentric', or worse. Both during his life and long after his death, his botanical work in particular was criticised, even ridiculed. However, in recent years, attempts have been made to restore his reputation and the term 'genius' has even been used to describe him. This paper examines this continuing fascination with this strange, disturbing figure and argues that in the competing interpretations of his life and work, Rafinesque has generally been used to typify bad classification; he is perhaps better understood in a broader, literary context as embodying a particular kind of American national identity.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: E History America
Depositing User: Jim Endersby
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:29
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 14:15
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/16653
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