An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the by Siobhan Carroll

By Siobhan Carroll

Planetary areas akin 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 limits of recognized and inhabited locations. The eighteenth century conceived of those geographic outliers because the traditional limits of imperial enlargement, yet medical and naval advances within the 19th century created new percentages to understand 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 may possibly 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 position those clean areas performed within the development of British identification in the course of an period of unsettling worldwide 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 bills and voyage narratives, she lines the methods Romantic and Victorian writers reconceptualized atopias as threatening or, every now and then, weak. those textual explorations of the earth's maximum reaches and mystery depths make clear power points of the British worldwide and environmental mind's eye that linger within the twenty-first century.

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Extra info for An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850

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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. John Dee obliged her with the first official British claim to polar territory, a claim that was predicated on the supposed colonial efforts of King Arthur, who, according to Dee, “even unto the North Pole .

84 Without a terra nullius to labor over, improve, and assert a Lockean claim to, Coleridge faces the possibility that his original labor would be represented as an outright theft of already-occupied literary territory. 85 In this respect, Coleridge’s comments remind us both of how physical space could be seen to stand in for the Romantic imagination and of the manner in which debates over literary creation sometimes resemble the disputes over polar sovereignty that arise later in the century.

Omer (ca. ”26 Other medieval geographers went further in their imagining of southern difference: The Hereford map, drawn around 1280 by Richard of Haldingham, depicts eleven races of Antarctic monsters, including people who have eyes and mouths on their breasts, men with the heads of dogs, and serpent-eaters. These early visions of profitable, if monstrous, territories at the ends of the earth, attracted the renewed attention of Europeans during the Age of Discovery, and this led to polar space being imagined as a region that could bring significant wealth to its claimants.

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