You are here

Novel Cultivations

Plants in British Literature of the Global Nineteenth Century
Elizabeth Hope Chang

BUY Cloth · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942476 · $59.50 · Mar 2019
BUY Paper · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942483 · $29.50 · Mar 2019
BUY Ebook · 240 pp. · ISBN 9780813942490 · $59.50 · Mar 2019

Best Book of the Year in Victorian Studies - Honorable Mention, North American Victorian Studies Association (2020)

Shortlisted for the Best Book Prize from the British Society of Literature and Science

Nineteenth-century English nature was a place of experimentation, exoticism, and transgression, as site and emblem of the global exchanges of the British Empire. Popular attitudes toward the transplantation of exotic species—botanical and human—to Victorian greenhouses and cities found anxious expression in a number of fanciful genre texts, including mysteries, science fiction, and horror stories.

Situated in a mid-Victorian moment of frenetic plant collecting from the far reaches of the British empire, Novel Cultivations recognizes plants as vital and sentient subjects that serve—often more so than people—as actors and narrative engines in the nineteenth-century novel. Conceptions of native and natural were decoupled by the revelation that nature was globally sourced, a disruption displayed in the plots of gardens as in those of novels.

Elizabeth Chang examines here the agency asserted by plants with shrewd readings of a range of fictional works, from monstrous rhododendrons in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Mexican prickly pears in Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm, to Algernon Blackwood’s hair-raising "The Man Whom the Trees Loved" and other obscure ecogothic tales. This provocative contribution to ecocriticism shows plants as buttonholes between fiction and reality, registering changes of form and content in both realms.


"Brilliant, provocative, and timely. A singular contribution to Victorian studies and environmental studies."

Lynn M. Voskuil, University of Houston, author of Acting Naturally: Victorian Theatricality and Authenticity

In this brilliant and original study, Elizabeth Hope Chang explores "plant fictions" as mediators of imperial circulation, anthropogenic agencies, and the cultivated forms of nineteenth-century nature-culture. Examining work by a wide range of authors including Wilkie Collins, Charlotte Brontë, Rudyard Kipling, and Olive Schreiner, Chang reveals the surprisingly global lives of nineteenth-century plants, and their role as models for new conceptions of novelistic character and form. This book will be eagerly read by scholars of nineteenth-century literature, plant studies, and environmental history.

Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, University of California, Davis, author of Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print Culture

Chang’s original readings of plant consciousness and agency in genre fiction make Novel Cultivations an important touchstone for work in the environmental humanities.


The focus of Chang’s Novel Cultivations on the nineteenth century helpsto foreground the importance of the Victorian period in environmental history when environ-mental literary thinking was solidly established, due to the writers’overt interest in the naturalworld, domestic and exotic plants being a prominent part of it

Green Letters

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books