By Siobhan Carroll
Planetary areas similar 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 recognized and inhabited locations. The eighteenth century conceived of those geographic outliers because the traditional limits of imperial growth, yet clinical and naval advances within the 19th century created new chances to grasp and keep watch over 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 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 id in the course of an period of unsettling worldwide circulations. studying 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 debts and voyage narratives, she lines the methods Romantic and Victorian writers reconceptualized atopias as threatening or, from time to time, weak. those textual explorations of the earth's optimum reaches and mystery depths make clear continual features of the British worldwide and environmental mind's eye that linger within the twenty-first century.
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Extra resources for An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850
14 While the texts that I examine here are frequently contradictory and fraught with ambiguity, they are all staging grounds for ideological battles that continue to shape our view of polar space. Indeed, as E. C. H. Keskitalo notes in Negotiating the Arctic, the perception of fundamentally different Arctic and Antarctic regions as comparable “polar spaces” is itself a legacy of nineteenthcentury exploration,15 which tended to represent these disparate regions as part of a unified polar landscape.
The Southern Continent might well exist, but Cook was increasingly convinced that it lay still farther to the south and was uninhabitable. In January 1773, Cook became the first European to penetrate the Antarctic Circle. Dodging icebergs in “the first and only Ship that ever cross’d that line,”68 Cook looked to the south but saw only a frozen ice pack that (he surmised) extended to the pole itself. In his 1779 edition of A Voyage Towards the South Pole, he defended his decision to turn back from the South Pole on the basis of the cost-benefit ratio of Antarctic exploration.
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. Northern Europeans looked to the Arctic for a Northwest Passage that could convey ships more easily to the South Seas and to the Antarctic for a continent that would rival that of the Americas. 28 As for the Antarctic regions, fifteenth-century European explorers had ventured past the equator and found tropical lands rather than antipodean reversals, leading many to look south for new sources of colonial wealth.
An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850 by Siobhan Carroll