Morton, Timothy 1968-
Morton, Timothy 1968-
Born June 19, 1968. Education: Magdalen College, Oxford University, D.Phil.
Educator and writer. University of California, Davis, professor of literature and environment.
(Editor, author of introduction, and contributor) Radical Food: The Culture and Politics of Eating and Drinking, 1790-1820, Routledge (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor, with Nigel Smith, and contributor,) Radicalism in British Literary Culture, 1650-1830: From Revolution to Revolution, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor) A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Routledge (London, England), 2002.
(Editor and contributor) Cultures of Taste/Theories of Appetite: Eating Romanticism, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor and contributor) The Cambridge Companion to Shelley, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.
Contributor to books including Romanticism: An Oxford Guide, edited by Nicholas Roe, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005, and Palgrave Advances in Byron Studies, edited by Jane Stabler, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2007; contributor to periodicals, including Romantic Praxis, Romanticism, European Romantic Review, and Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings.
Timothy Morton is an English professor whose interests include literature and the environment, theories of ecology, food studies, Romanticism, the eighteenth century, literary theory, and philosophy. He is also the author or editor of numerous books related to his academic interests. According to Wordsworth Circle contributor Gillen D'Arcy Wood, Morton has almost single-handedly created a new field of literary criticism focusing on diet studies, which investigates connections between food, drink, and culture, including literature, philosophy, and history. Wood noted: "It is rare to attribute the formation of an entire new field to one scholar, but with his … edited collection of essays in Romantic diet studies, … which follows on from three other books on the subject in the last decade, Timothy Morton warrants the distinction."
The author's first book about diet studies, Shelley and the Revolution in Taste: The Body and the Natural World, appeared in 1994. Called "a magical mystery tour of a gargantuan subject largely unexamined in relation to its important role in shaping the modern Western world and English literature" by Wordsworth Circle contributor Charles J. Rzepka, the book, despite the singular "Shelley" in it's title, focuses on both Percy and Mary Wollencraft Shelley's vegetarianism and addresses the representation of food and drink in their works. The book includes original studies of often-debated texts and provides an examination of medicine and diet in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. In the process, the author reveals how food within the authors' texts provides a complex reflection of ideological preferences. Writing in Criticism, Steven Jones noted "the overall bounty of substantive intellectual nourishment provided by the book." Referring to Shelley and the Revolution in Taste as "rigorously interdisciplinary, ranging widely over politics, economics, natural history, Stephen C. Behrendt went on to write in his review in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology that the author "documents the protracted interest of both the Shelleys—but especially of Percy—in reforming and reconfiguring the body within his work both as object or icon and as concept. Morton's ostensible avenue into the subject is vegetarianism, whose importance for Shelley he demonstrates to have been both extensive and extended."
In The Poetics of Spice: Romantic Consumerism and the Exotic, the author goes as far back as the Renaissance to explore the significance of spice and the spice trade in Romantic literature. In the process, he examines the impact of growing consumer culture and capitalist ideology on literature and discusses topics such as the slave trade, colonialism, economics, and race and gender. Commenting on the author's analysis of the importance of spice in literature of the period, James Najarian wrote in College Literature: "Spice becomes an attitude about the materiality and the senses rather than a limited set of tastes or smells. Figurative language takes part in the elements of spice, and spice figures poetic language as it connotes wealth." Among the texts the author analyzes are works by Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Shelley, Leigh Hunt, and Robert Southey, who was known for his antislavery sonnets. Susan B. Taylor, writing in Criticism, called The Poetics of Spice an "impressively detailed and wide-ranging study of spice and Romantic consumerism … [that] provides an encompassing vindication of the power and importance of literary criticism."
Morton is also editor of Radical Food: The Culture and Politics of Eating and Drinking, 1790-1820, for which he also wrote the introduction and contributed essays. The three-volume set examines the cultural and literary history of food in the eighteenth century and includes texts from the period concerned with issues such as the antislavery debate, rapid urbanization, industrialization, and revolutionary politics.
As editor of and a contributor to Cultures of Taste/Theories of Appetite: Eating Romanticism, Morton provides a series of interdisciplinary essays that brings a wide range of scholarship to diet studies. Focusing on famous and lesser- known writers and philosophers, from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre, the essays look at the social, cultural, political, and philosophical phenomena associated with food in the Romantic period and the legacy carried on by later writers such as Beckett. Wordsworth Circle contributor Wood noted that the author's "two essay contributions which frame the volume, "Consumption as Performance: The Emergence of the Consumer in the Romantic Period" and "Let Them Eat Romanticism: Materialism, Ideology, and Diet Studies," are among the best examples of his dazzling synthetic style."
Among Morton's other books is Radicalism in British Literary Culture, 1650-1830: From Revolution to Revolution. In this book, Morton and his coeditor Nigel Smith present a series of essays that examine the radical tradition in British literary culture. Covering the time period from the English Revolution in the mid-seventeenth century to the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century, the essays examine continuities through the overall period in terms of radical agendas that sought to fundamentally change society. "Centered on the themes of republicanism, democracy, and religious practice, the collection seeks to counter claims that the period 1689 to 1770 was distinguished by its lack of political radicalism," wrote Chris Mounsey in Albion. "Instead, it argues that ‘the components of seventeenth-century radicalism were carried forwards in this most stable of periods in ways that are not always obvious.’" Morton also contributed an essay to the book in which he examines Thomas Tryon, a seventeenth century English-born vegetarian, hatter, and author who wrote against slavery and capitalism.
In his 2007 book Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics, the author explores how the image of nature held by people has been a major stumbling block to environmental thinking and ecological writers proposing a new worldview. Examining the world's ecological assumptions, the author proposes that it is necessary to relinquish the idea of nature if we are to truly honor nature and avoid further ecological catastrophe. Writing on the PopMatters Web site, Vince Carducci commented that the author "maintains that the first step is to scrap nature as we know it. It isn't the thing itself that needs trashing—we're doing a fine job of that already; it's our way of thinking about it that needs to be structurally realigned." The author refers to texts from the eighteenth century on through modern times to demonstrate how our notions of nature have been formed and misinformed. For example, he points to Romantic literature as a source of our view of nature as a pristine place that is unpolluted by humans. As a result, according to the author, humans have come to view nature as something foreign to everyday life. In his review, Carducci noted: "Ecology without Nature isn't for the intellectually demure. But it's an important book that … frames a debate that no doubt will be carried on for years to come."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Albion, summer, 2003, Chris Mounsey, review of Radicalism in British Literary Culture, 1650-1830: From Revolution to Revolution.
Choice, October, 1995, M. Minor, review of Shelley and the Revolution in Taste: The Body and the Natural World, p. 294; March, 2001, M. Minor, review of The Poetics of Spice: Romantic Consumerism and the Exotic, p. 1272; June, 2007, T. Ware, review of The Cambridge Companion to Shelley, p. 1752.
College Literature, summer, 2003, James Najarian, "Romanticisms, Histories, and Romantic Cultures," includes review of The Poetics of Spice, p. 139.
Contemporary Review, October, 2002, review of A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, p. 249.
Criticism, fall, 2001, Susan B. Taylor, review of The Poetics of Spice, p. 447; winter, 2007, Steven Jones, review of Shelley and the Revolution in Taste, p. 153.
English Historical Review, September, 2004, Mark Philip, review of Radicalism in British Literary Culture, 1650-1830, p. 1062.
Huntington Library Quarterly, January 1, 2003, Nicole Pohl, "Radicalism and Utopianism," p. 213.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, October, 1996, Stephen C. Behrendt, review of Shelley and the Revolution in Taste, p. 565.
Keats-Shelley Journal, annual, 2002, Samuel Baker, review of The Poetics of Spice, pp. 231-233; annual, 2006, Andrew McCann, review of Radicalism in British Literary Culture, 1650-1830, p. 261.
Modern Language Review, October, 1996, Kelvin Everest, review of Shelley and the Revolution in Taste, p. 979.
Nineteenth-Century Literature, September, 1996, review of Shelley and the Revolution in Taste, p. 275.
Notes and Queries, March, 1996, Chris Jones, review of Shelley and the Revolution in Taste, p. 102; December, 2003, Nicholas McDowell, review of Radicalism in British Literary Culture, 1650-1830, p. 4742.
Review of English Studies, August, 1998, Hugo Donnelly, review of Shelley and the Revolution in Taste, p. 370; August, 2002, Fiona Stafford, review of The Poetics of Spice, p. 448; September, 2007, Tony Howe, review of The Cambridge Companion to Shelley, p. 577.
Science Fiction Studies, March, 2005, Sharon Emmerichs, review of A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, p. 206.
Studies in Romanticism, fall, 1997, P.M.S. Dawson, review of Shelley and the Revolution in Taste, p. 498.
Wordsworth Circle, autumn, 2001, Charles J. Rzepka, review of The Poetics of Spice, p. 238; autumn, 2005, Gillen D'Arcy Wood, review of Cultures of Taste/Theories of Appetite: Eating Romanticism, p. 153.
PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (May 21, 2007), Vince Carducci, review of Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics.
University of California—Davis, Department of English Web site,http://www.english.ucdavis.edu/ (February 6, 2008), faculty profile of author.