Thursday, October 22, 2009

William Bartram Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources
My first secondary source is an article entitled “The Creator’s Boundless Palace: William Bartram’s Philosophy of Nature. This source not only looks at Bartram’s most important work, Travels, but also at an unpublished treatise by him that is more centered on philosophy. Bartram’s theory of “divine monitor” is elucidated in detail. Metaphysics, civilization, nature, and morality are all discussed by showing the Travels and the unpublished work’s cohesive philosophy of nature.
Second is an article called “William Bartram, a Classical Scientist.” In this article, Richard M. Gummere argues that Bartram was not a proponent of Pantheism. Instead, Bartram is defined as a Neo-Platonist scientist. Neo-platonism, at least in Bartram’s sense, is essentially equated to deism.
Third is probably one of the most important of all my secondary sources. In “Encountering “the Other,” Eve Kornfeld discusses the preconceptions and racialization of Native American’s in the minds of American intellectuals. The narrative, according to Kornfeld, plays a central role in Othering, or describing someone as an “Other” because of race, gender, class, religion, nationality, or a combination of social categories. After providing numerous examples of this in American narratives prior to 1790, she discusses the role William Bartram played. I don’t want to give too much away here, but Kornfeld provides much of the evidence that will be used in my paper to argue with Murphree’s opinion on Bartram’s contribution to racialization.
The fourth is minimal and discusses differences found in different editions of William Bartram’s Travels and mentions the ramifications of such editing.
Thomas Hallocks “On the Borders of a New World” discusses different interpretations of Bartram’s Travels. Hallock influenced my paper with his description of Bartram as in, “a position at both the margins and center of a culture…” This helps, when used with Kornfeld’s article, to establish Bartram’s racialization as the only possible language but still used to subvert the preconceptions attached to these racialized images. The article also indirectly suggests Bartram’s pluralism.
My sixth source is next to useless. It is entitled “Swallowing the Evidence: William Bartram and the Limits of Enlightenment.” In this article, author Michael Gaudio critiques Bartram’s natural history drawings as works of enlightenment art. “The void,” or the dark, black and mysterious aspects of many of Bartram’s drawings, especially of plants, is understood in the context of race, along with other similar Enlightenment paintings. “Visibility of the world, natural and social, finds its limit in a void. (17)”. He relies more on art history then anything else and thus provides little influence on my paper.
Seven and eight can easily be described together. The first of these two is “The Quaker Background of William Bartram’s View of Nature,” by Larry R. Clarke, and the second is a response, coming a year later, entitled, “Clarke on the Quaker Background of William Bartram’s Approach to Nature,” by Bruce Silver. Clarke, as his title suggests, describes William Bartram’s philosophy of nature as derived from Quaker theology and philosophy. Silver, on the other hand, cites secular influences that could lead to the same intentions from Bartram. The Quaker influences Clarke cites are in no way suggest they are the only thing influencing Bartram. Besides the argument, Silver says, “The important fact is, however, that Bartram’s Travels is never overawed by the a priori beliefs that occasionally color it. Its originality overcomes its debts just as its core of solid observations overcomes its suspect preconceptions (510).” This is important for engaging a dialogue with Murphree and seeing why this paper has value.
Secondary source number nine is the book by Daniel S. Murphree entitled Constructing Floridians. Though it has already been mentioned, Murphree, in a small section on Bartram, argues that Bartram uses racialization and thus ends up contributing to racialization and adding new condemnations to the idea of the Native Americans. While some of his points are valid, like his claim Bartram uses racialized language and accounts (which is evident and impossible to argue against), others are the result of a misinterpretation of Bartram’s writing, feelings, and motives. Some of his claims are specious, but he also has his points. Without his work, I would not have been motivated to study Bartram’s work. Now that the research has been done, I feel like I have an interpretation of Bartram and his contribution through Travels that has more marks of validity.
My last secondary source is a small interpretive biography called Billy Bartram and his Green World. In this book, the narrative of Bartram’s Travels is interpreted and presented not solely by notes, but mostly in the form of biographical narrative. Fun, easier, and less detailed then the original, author Marjory Sanger does an excellent job in retelling the story of Bartram in an accurate yet entertaining fashion.

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