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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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“Not without Some Repugnancy, and a Fluctuating Mind”: Trembley’s Polyp and the Practice of Eighteenth-Century Taxonomy

“Not without Some Repugnancy, and a Fluctuating Mind”: Trembley’s Polyp and the Practice of Eighteenth-Century Taxonomy

Chapter:
(p.71) 3 “Not without Some Repugnancy, and a Fluctuating Mind”: Trembley’s Polyp and the Practice of Eighteenth-Century Taxonomy
Source:
Worm Work
Author(s):

Janelle A. Schwartz

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816673209.003.0003

This chapter focuses on a singular vermiform creature, the freshwater hydra or polyp. It provides a discussion of natural history writing to illustrate a kind of lyricism and aesthetic revaluation built into the articulation of empirical study. Discovered in 1740 by Abraham Trembley, the freshwater hydra or polyp displayed an astonishing variety of wormy behaviors, including the capacity to regenerate from cuttings as if it were a plant. Consequently, subsequent studies of Trembley’s investigations into the polyp emphasize this naturalist’s relative obscurity in the history of science against the polyp itself being a celebrated discovery. Trembley’s account of his investigations into the structure and behavior of this creature implores a way of aestheticizing the vermicular that fruitfully combines the more classic repulsion with an inventive appeal to mutability, indeterminacy, and the irrepressibility of the organic.

Keywords:   vermiform creature, freshwater hydra, polyp, natural history, Abraham Trembley, regenerate

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