Thursday

Marianne North Botanical Image (from Plant Explorers)



Marianne North was a botanical artist who travelled to six continents in the late nineteenth century to paint flowers, primarily, in their "natural habitat." She was close to the Director of Kew Gardens and her Gallery of botanical art is situated on the grounds of the Kew public gardens, in gallery space that was designed and financed by North herself. Over 630 images are displayed, along with dado samples of wood obtained from round the world. My work on Marianne North in South Africa focuses on the ways in which she was complicit with British imperial ambitions, by conveying the sense that British women could travel with ease to remote outpost without fear of danger or discomfort. This sense that women travelers would encounter a "sphere of inviolability" in southern Africa was in significant ways a falsification... she ignored the political and civil unrest in the last half of the nineteenth century: She traveled through South Africa in 1882 and 1883, as one of the last countries visited in her twenty year project, and painted, in addition to the magnificent flora of Cape Town and its environs, a rosy picture of free-wheeling unaccompanied female travelers.

The image above is one of three plants named after North, the Nepenthes northiana - a giant pitcher plant from Borneo.

Sunday

From Dawn to Noon such Pleasures they Pursued: Luís de Camões and the Isle of Love

(ABOVE): ADAMASTOR, from LUIS DE CAMOES' OS LUSIADAS

In Canto IX of Os Lusiadas (1572), Luís de Camões conjured up a floating “Isle of Love” as a reward for the dangers and privations that Portuguese sailors endured on Vasco da Gama’s voyage round the Cape to the Indies. This mythical island was amply stocked with virgins for the sailors’ sport, and rills and vales and limpid streams abounded—all modeled on the most pleasant features of the home country world (though, unlike the home country, densely supplied with game animals). Venus was responsible for this island, and it was her sympathy for the suffering sailors that prompted her to physically block their voyage (somewhere off the coast of East Africa) with the isle that one translator called a “Venusberg.” Although Camões’ account has many of the attributes of a founding “orientalist” text, it is largely neglected by postcolonialists. This paper will demonstrate how the expansionist drive of sixteenth-century Portugal was intertwined with fantasies of a zone of unregulated sexuality.

PAPER PRESENTED AT THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE,
PHILADELPHIA, PA
DECEMBER, 2006