Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Environmental Humanities

The Ransom Center collections contain manuscripts, books, artworks, photographs, and ephemera that document the complex relationship between nature and culture. Encompassing early modern sporting guides, first editions of pivotal scientific texts, manuscript collections of contemporary environmentalist writers, and much more, these materials reflect some of the most influential shifts in the way human communities have understood themselves in relation to the nonhuman world. The sample teaching collections below approach this relationship through several lenses, tracking representations of nature in the arts, the sciences, religion, and politics. These collections may be relevant to courses in environmental studies, natural sciences, religious studies, history, literature, sociology, and public policy.


Animal Studies

Animal Studies

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Encompassing early veterinary manuals, children's books, advertisements, propaganda, photographs, works of natural history, and more, this collection explores representations of non-human lives in service of a wide range of aesthetic, economic, and political purposes. Animals have long been seen as a mirror for human society, establishing the boundaries that define the category of humanity itself. The materials in this collection trace the history of these representations, offering a corresponding look at the political assumptions guiding their creation.


Nature and Society

Nature and Society

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This collection explores the impact of changing conceptions of nature on Western society and politics. Several nineteenth-century books help contextualize the emerging discourse of Darwinian natural science, and its impact on the religious, political, and cultural landscape of the Western Hemisphere. More recent archives, including those of writers Peter Matthiessen, Anita Brenner, and Julia Alvarez, reflect contemporary debates about environmental ethics, representation, and justice.


Nature in the Arts

Nature in the Arts

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This collection examines the many ways in which the natural world has been shaped, repurposed, and represented by artists and writers. These items highlight, in various ways, nature's dynamic role in the process and production of creative works. By necessity, the collection covers a wide range of materials, including a medieval Book of Hours, an eighteenth-century treatise on natural history in literature, illuminated works of Romantic and Gothic poetry, a book of ecological poetry by Erasmus Darwin, drafts of D. H. Lawrence's nature poetry, and manuscripts from T. H. White, Julia Alvarez, and other contemporary authors.


Nature in the Sciences

Nature in the Sciences

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This collection reflects the history of natural science both as a discipline and as a catalyst for cultural change. Early works in botany, zoology, and astronomy reveal the material cultures surrounding new ideas and attitudes toward the natural world, documenting emerging Enlightenment discourses of instrumental knowledge. These discourses continue in the extensive Herschel family collection materials, which include manuscripts, books, and correspondence relevant to the development of nineteenth-century science. Materials from Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell further reflect monumental shifts in science as a public discourse, as theories of evolution and geological time clashed with prevailing religious cosmologies.