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Natural Magic: Emily Dickinson, Charles Darwin, and the Dawn of Modern Science

Natural Magic: Emily Dickinson, Charles Darwin, and the Dawn of Modern Science

Author Renée Bergland
Publisher Princeton University Press
Publication Date 2024-04-30
Section Science
Type New
Format Hardccover
ISBN 9780691235288

A captivating portrait of the poet and the scientist who shared an enchanted view of nature

Emily Dickinson and Charles Darwin were born at a time when the science of studying the natural world was known as natural philosophy, a pastime for poets, priests, and schoolgirls. The world began to change in the 1830s, while Darwin was exploring the Pacific aboard the Beagle and Dickinson was a student in Amherst, Massachusetts. Poetry and science started to grow apart, and modern thinkers challenged the old orthodoxies, offering thrilling new perspectives that suddenly felt radical—and too dangerous for women.

Natural Magic intertwines the stories of these two luminary nineteenth-century minds whose thought and writings captured the awesome possibilities of the new sciences and at the same time strove to preserve the magic of nature. Just as Darwin’s work was informed by his roots in natural philosophy and his belief in the interconnectedness of all life, Dickinson’s poetry was shaped by her education in botany, astronomy, and chemistry, and by her fascination with the enchanting possibilities of Darwinian science. Casting their two very different careers in an entirely fresh light, Renée Bergland brings to life a time when ideas about science were rapidly evolving, reshaped by poets, scientists, philosophers, and theologians alike. She paints a colorful portrait of a remarkable century that transformed how we see the natural world.

Illuminating and insightful, Natural Magic explores how Dickinson and Darwin refused to accept the separation of art and science. Today, more than ever, we need to reclaim their shared sense of ecological wonder.

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