Carl Linnaeus/Bibliography

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A list of key readings about Carl Linnaeus.
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  • Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus was an early information architect. He believed that every kind of plant and animal on Earth should be named and classified.
  • My subsequent focus on Levertin's reading of Linnaeus is not because Levertin's reading should be considered originary or definitive, but rather because his work on Linnaeus marks so well a particular historical moment. Through his depiction of Linnaeus as an artist and literary figure, Levertin counters the image of Linnaeus as a disembodied rationalist and presents him as an embodied and embedded subject. Different from other contemporary images of Linnaeus as blomsterkonungen [the king of flowers], Levertin presents Linnaeus as what might be termed an ecological subject, an embodied subject clearly grounded in and integrated with his immediate surroundings. The image of Linnaeus in the fragmentary chapters of Levertin's biography is contradictory at best, but these contradictions point to important currents in Swedish culture's own historical engagement and use of the natural environment to represent evolving notions of collective and individual identity. Linnaeus's subjectivity and relationship with his environment (and not his science) is the focus of the investigation. By concentrating on the subjectivity of Linnaeus as embodied observer, Levertin explores the dynamics of observation and representation by erasing boundaries between inside and outside, subject and object, the knowable and the unknowable, and self and other. His representation of Linnaeus strives for a critical thickness that is less interested in what Linnaeus saw than in how he saw and wrote about it.