New book on climate change and the American tropics

The biggest challenge of the twenty-first century is to bring the affects of public life into relation with the intractable problem of global climate change. In his newest book, professor Michael Boyden explains how we came to think of the climate as something abstract and remote rather than a force that actively shapes our existence.

In Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics chair professor of English and American Literature and Culture Michael Boyden argues that this separation between climate and sensibility predates the rise of modern climatology and has deep roots in the era of colonial expansion, when the American tropics were transformed into the economic supplier for Euro-American empires.

Offering Novel readings

The book shows how the writings of American travelers in the Caribbean registered and pushed forward this new understanding of the climate in a pivotal period in modern history, roughly between 1770 and 1860, which was fraught with debates over slavery, environmental destruction, and colonialism. Offering novel readings of authors including J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, William Cullen Bryant, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson in light of their engagements with the American tropics, Boyden’s 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.

Highlighting urgency

By suggesting a new genealogy of modern climate thinking, Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics highlights the urgency of revisiting received ideas of tropicality deeply ingrained in American culture that continue to inform current debates on climate debt and justice.

Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics was published by Oxford University Press.

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