Netherlands American Studies Association

Third NASA Roundtable with Michael Boyden

On May 12, 2023, Michael Boyden, a professor of English at Radboud University Nijmegen, will be holding the third NASA roundtable at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies in Middelburg centering around his new book: Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics (Oxford University Press, 2022).

The biggest challenge of the twenty-first century is to bring the effects of public life into relation with the intractable problem of global atmospheric change. Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics explains how we came to think of the climate as something abstract and remote rather than a force that actively shapes our existence. The book argues that this separation between climate and sensibility predates the rise of modern climatology and has deep roots in the era of colonial expansion, when the American tropics were transformed into the economic supplier for Euro-American empires. Offering novel readings of authors including J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Leonora Sansay, William Cullen Bryant, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sophia Peabody, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and James McCune Smith in light of their engagements with the American tropics, the book shows that these authors drew on a climatic epistemology that fused science and sentiment in ways that citizen science is aspiring to do today.

Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics thus poses a significant departure from other works in the environmental humanities that conceive of climatic enlightenment as a recent development or trace its beginnings back to romantic nature writing. By thus suggesting a new genealogy of modern climate thinking, the book highlights the urgency of revisiting received ideas of tropicality deeply ingrained in American culture that continue to inform current debates on climate debt and justice.

Michael Boyden will be talking with Abby L. Goode, Associate Professor of English and Sustainability Studies at Plymouth State University (New Hampshire, US), author of Agrotopias: An American Literary History of Sustainability. The event will be held at the RIAS at 3 PM. You can attend both online or in-person. To register, please email the RIAS at