Event—Public Programming

Coral in Early American Literature, Science, and Culture

Across newspapers, magazines, poems, songs, novels, anthologies, paintings, drawings, stereographs, decorative arts, and other media, antebellum Americans embraced coral. This talk will focus on one particular aspect of early American coral fascination: “coral insect” song and poetry. Why was it so important to imagine the lives and labors of “coral insects,” the supposed creators of coral—and therefore of reefs, islands, and continents? While addressing this question, the talk will also consider the role of coral necklaces, specimens, and other objects in early American life and writing, and ask how a cultural history of early American coral helps us confront our contemporary coral crises.