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A Naturalist's Vision of the Tropics: Charles Darwin and the Brazilian Landscape

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This paper considers how European voyagers both engaged with and reconstructed the tropical landscapes they encountered. By examining visions of the Brazilian landscape produced by Charles Darwin during his Beagle voyage, the paper aims to explore the complex interaction between prior knowledge, aesthetic convention and the experience of travelling in the construction of his geographical imagination. While the resulting images necessarily shared a set of scientific and aesthetic codes integral to the visual culture of nineteenth-century Europe, as well as being evidence of Britain's global imperial project, they were more than simply an “expression” of these wider historical realities. Darwin's visual impressions were shaped through a constant process of negotiation between translocated images: brought by his mind's eye, found in the landscapes presented to his body, and tracked over. The very materiality of Darwin's vision contains traces of his spatial and embodied practices.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2000


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