By Siobhan Carroll
Planetary areas corresponding to the poles, the oceans, the ambience, and subterranean areas captured the British imperial mind's eye. Intangible, inhospitable, or inaccessible, those clean spaces—what Siobhan Carroll calls "atopias"—existed past the limits of identified and inhabited areas. The eighteenth century conceived of those geographic outliers because the traditional limits of imperial growth, yet clinical and naval advances within the 19th century created new probabilities to grasp and keep an eye on them. This improvement preoccupied British authors, who have been familiar with seeing atopic areas as otherworldly marvels in fantastical stories. areas that an empire couldn't colonize have been areas that literature may perhaps declare, as literary representations of atopias got here to mirror their authors' attitudes towards the expansion of the British Empire in addition to the half they observed literature taking part in in that expansion.
Siobhan Carroll interrogates the function those clean areas performed within the building of British id in the course of an period of unsettling worldwide circulations. studying the poetry of Samuel T. Coleridge and George Gordon Byron and the prose of Sophia Lee, Mary Shelley, and Charles Dickens, in addition to newspaper debts and voyage narratives, she strains the methods Romantic and Victorian writers reconceptualized atopias as threatening or, from time to time, susceptible. those textual explorations of the earth's optimum reaches and mystery depths make clear chronic aspects of the British worldwide and environmental mind's eye that linger within the twenty-first century.
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Additional resources for An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850
Here, in a land safely insulated from the market economy, he is finally able to put his new resolution into practice, building himself a kingdom that resembles Crusoe’s in all but its telling exclusion of money. Not only does the terra nullius of Terra Australis Incognita enable Wilkins to gain the “Estate”46 his stepfather denied him in Britain, but when fate introduces him to Youwarkee, a winged woman from a nearby kingdom who quickly becomes Wilkins’s new wife, he is also able to reconstitute his domestic sphere.
Coleridge, whose polar works reveal a similar interest in compromised bodies and alien spaces. Conceived in the wake of the South Sea Bubble, Peter Wilkins rewrites Robinson Crusoe as fantasy, casting a skeptical eye on the latter novel’s validation of commercial speculation. In the first part of the novel, the titular protagonist is drawn into ever-widening circuits of mobility by his misplaced trust in the profitability of international trade. Disinherited by his unscrupulous stepfather, Wilkins hopes to gain back some kind of financial independence by adventuring as a sailor in the global marketplace.
56 Like The Blazing World, in other words, Peter Wilkins did not confuse a drive toward transcendence with one toward power. The polar space it depicted was one in which imaginative speculations, imperial territorial ambitions, and the suspect world of maritime trade could be imagined as unattached. 57 Aimed at discovering the vast Southern Continent, James Cook’s voyages instead proved its nonexistence. In its place, Cook introduced two new continents—Australia and Antarctica—to the European consciousness.
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