CFP -- Aesthetics of Colonial Chemistry -- SEA'13 Feb 28 - March 2 -- ABSTRACTS DUE April 12

full name / name of organization: 
Allison Bigelow and Kelly L. Bezio

Aesthetics of Colonial Chemistry

From Milton's "arch-chemic sun so far from us remote" to Taylor's divine distillation of Sharon's Rose by the God who "Chymist is," the language and practices of chemistry are writ large upon the colonial archive of imaginative letters. Not limited to Puritan poetics, chemical discourse also informs key Catholic voices like Sor Juana in her kitchen-side experiments with contrary natures, and her conclusion that "Had Aristotle cooked, he would have written more." Circulating along the transatlantic networks that connected the metropole to the colonies, chemical knowledge precipitated new ways of conceiving, metaphorically, the spiritual; alternative domains of scientific praxis; and dynamic constructions of embodiment.

This panel seeks papers exploring the interdisciplinary relationship between imaginative and materialist encounters with colonial chemistry. Recent studies in the history of science, such as William R. Newman's Atoms and Alchemy (2006), have revealed the ways in which alchemical thought and practice helped to establish the experiential orientation and empirical foundations of chemistry, shared by the Bermuda-born George Starkey and John Winthrop, Jr., while scholars of colonial Iberian science like Jorge Cañizares Esguerra (2006) have shown how New Spanish metallurgical technologies of amalgamation transformed early modern mineralogical science. Clearly, colonial geographies and peoples helped to invent an important body of knowledge and vice versa. But how, specifically, did these experiences of chemical knowledge likewise invent a discourse of chemistry capable of describing much more than root theories, elemental behaviors, and macro/microcosmic analogies?

Papers might address the following questions or develop other lines of inquiry: What are the aesthetic effects of these new technologies? How does the language of chemistry inform aesthetic invention? How does chemical science appeal to Puritan and Catholic writers and to transnational communities like Hartlib circle correspondents? What does it mean that imaginative writers and natural practitioners from such different religious and linguistic traditions find themselves at home in the language and imagery of colonial chemistry?

Please send 250-500 word abstracts and a current CV by 12 April, 2012, to Allison Bigelow ( and Kelly Bezio (