By Mary Louise Pratt
Up-to-date and accelerated all through with new illustrations and new fabric, this is often the lengthy- awaited moment version of a hugely acclaimed and interdisciplinary ebook which speedy demonstrated itself as a seminal textual content in its box.
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Extra info for Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation
Literature is perishing before our very eyes. Voltaire, Letter to Cideville (16 April 17351) The European part of this story starts in the European year 1735. At least that is where the narration is going to begin – the story takes another twenty or thirty years to really get underway. In that year 1735, two rather new and deeply European events took place. One was the publication of Carl Linné’s (Linnaeus’) Systema Naturae (The System of Nature), in which the Swedish naturalist laid out a classificatory system designed to categorize all plant forms on the planet, known or unknown to Europeans.
These terms gave rise to two totalizing or planetary projects. One was circumnavigation, a double deed that consists of sailing round the world then writing an account of it (the term “circumnavigation” refers either to the voyage or the book). Europeans have been repeating this double deed almost continually since it was first accomplished by Magellan in the 1520s. The second planetary project, equally dependent on ink and paper, was the mapping of the world’s coastlines, a collective task that was still underway in the eighteenth century, but known to be completable.
Professor Friis Rottboll of Copenhagen is publishing the plants found in Surinam by Rolander. 22 It is as if he were speaking of ambassadors and empire. What I want to argue is, of course, that in quite a significant way, he was. As Christianity had set in motion a global labor of religious conversion that asserted itself at every point of contact with other societies, so natural history set in motion a secular, global labor that, among other things, made contact zones a site of intellectual as well as manual labor, and installed there the distinction between the two.