Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics

By Michael Boyden. Oxford University Press, 2022

Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics shows how the writings of American travelers in the Caribbean registered and pushed forward a form of climatic awareness between 1770 and 1860, a pivotal period in modern history fraught with debates over slavery, environmental destruction, and colonialism. Offering novel readings of authors including J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur, Leonora Sansay, William Cullen Bryant, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sophia Peabody, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and James McCune Smith in light of their engagements with the American tropics, the book shows that these authors drew on a climatic epistemology that fused science and sentiment in ways that citizen science is aspiring to do today. Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics thus poses a significant departure from other works in the Environmental Humanities that conceive of climatic enlightenment as a recent development or trace its beginnings back to romantic nature writing. By suggesting a new genealogy of modern climate thinking, Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics urges us to reconsider the roots of deeply ingrained ideas of tropicality that continue to inform current debates on climate debt and justice.