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Worm WorkRecasting Romanticism$
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Janelle A. Schwartz

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816673209

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816673209.001.0001

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Transitional Tropes: The Nature of Life in European Romantic Thought

Transitional Tropes: The Nature of Life in European Romantic Thought

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Transitional Tropes: The Nature of Life in European Romantic Thought
Source:
Worm Work
Author(s):

Janelle A. Schwartz

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816673209.003.0001

This chapter rehearses eighteenth-century natural history studies of the worm as they manifest at once the exhilaration and the anxiety of discovery, particularly as such discoveries produce the inescapable man: worm analogy. Worms are considered as an agent of change integral to and transformative of both matter and mind. The chapter presents a brief history of taxonomy through the lens of the lower organisms to illustrate classification as a tenuous, if not practicable, practice. It then illustrates the worm’s metonymic capacity to identify a culture of thought that secures the substantiveness of the vermicular (developed through the work of both natural philosophers and natural historians) within a vile aesthetic—an aesthetic that gained its fullest expression in writings of the Romantic era.

Keywords:   worm, worm analogy, taxonomy, lower organisms, Romantic era

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