Position title: William Coleman Dissertation Fellow (2011-2012)
History of Science, UW-Madison
The Sensitive Plant: The Physiology of Environmental Influence in Enlightenment France
“Such is the power of climate, that a man who changes climate feels the effects despite himself. He is like a wandering plant which has transplanted itself.” – Julien Offray de la Mettrie, L’homme machineThe history of the body often pursues its object with the assumption that embodied experience is necessarily human, a constraint which neglects the extent to which human bodies are understood, described, and represented by analogy with living bodies that form part of their environment. This dissertation investigates the role that plants play in constructing and representing human embodiment in the eighteenth century. I argue that experimental observations in plant physiology re-figured vegetable matter as especially sensitive to climate. Analogies between plant and human bodies in the sciences and the arts drew upon that characterization to represent human sensitivity to their environment.
Lynnette Regouby, William R. Coleman Fellow, is a PhD Candidate in History of Science at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research investigates how scientific, literary and visual representations of plant and human bodies inform eighteenth century concepts of the body and the influence of climate upon them. Ms Regouby completed a minor in History at UW-Madison, received her M.A. in History of Science from University of Oklahoma and obtained a dual degree from the same institution in Letters and French Language and Literature.