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Budick, Kant & Milton

Over the past 30 years, when wanting any literary criticism I have found myself returning to the great classics of the mid-last century - books such as J.F. Danby`s Shakespeare`s Doctrine of Nature or Caroline Spurgeon`s Shakespeare`s Imagery. Deliberate obfuscation has long overtaken contemporary criticism, with the exception of pioneering all-encompassing masterpieces like Norman O. Brown`s Love`s Body & Life against Death.

So it was with a sense of real intellectual excitement that I began to read Sanford Budick`s volume Kant & Milton (Harvard UP, 2010). Here at long last is a book that sets the philosophical gelignite fizzing beneath the negative judgments of Messrs T.S. Eliot and Leavis who dislodged Milton from favor those many years ago.  Read More 
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Maria Sibylla Merian & Metamorphosis

I`ve only recently caught up with a brilliant book (CHRYSALIS) by Kim Todd on the remarkable woman naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. I first came across Merian in the Exhibition 3 years ago AMAZING RARE THINGS, part curated by David Attenborough - who seems to be more interested in the thrilling realism of wildebeests being savaged by lions these days.

Merian was one of the first after Jan Swammerdam to describe the processes of metamorphosis in nature, which she did directly from nature rather than the lab. As Kim Todd points out "Her portraits and descriptions of Surinamese insects were so definitive that Linnaeus, in compiling his systematization of natural life, used her drawings rather than actual specimens."

A blog is not the place to undertake an argument as to the full significance of insect transformation in the disputes over natural selection. But as I have shown in a series of published books (which are introduced on my accompanying website,) metamorphosis feeds into all the great artistic, literary and musical achievements of the human race. This may appear to be metaphysical, but sonatas, symphonies, Shakespeare`s dramatic evolution - all follow this entirely natural and physical parabola.

It`s just that most folk look down in insects as relatively insignificant when they`re not a positive menace (the infamous Scottish midge). But as a matter of sheer fact, they are more SIGNIFICANT in evolutionary terms than the higher apes which of course have their place. Read More 
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The survival of the Purple Emperor Butterfly

The Purple Emperor Butterfly is a rarity, and according to the magnificent compendium of American Lepidoptera by James A. Scott in his THE BUTTERFLIES OF NORTH AMERICA: A NATURAL HISTORY AND FIELD GUIDE, it appears in the USA only as a stray. Its behavior is seriously incorrect, because it hangs around at the tops  Read More 
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