Sacred Seeds


Sacred Seeds

New World Plants in Early Modern English Literature

Edward McLean Test

Early Modern Cultural Studies Series

246 pages
1 photograph, 23 illustrations,1 map, index


January 2019


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2019


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2019


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

More than five hundred years after the fact, present-day writers still use hyperbolic adjectives to describe the “discovery” of the Americas. Columbus’s crossing of the Atlantic—and the age of exploration that ensued—dramatically and forever changed the early modern world. The societies, economies, cultures, arts, and burgeoning sciences of Europe were quickly transformed by the ongoing encounter with the New World. 

The meeting of the New and the Old Worlds, however, was more than a meeting of disparate civilizations. It was also a confluence of exciting and often surprising associations that continually created new interfaces between materials and knowledge. The Western and Eastern Hemispheres, brought together by sailing ships for the first time on a large scale, helped create the global landscape we take for granted today. Central to this formative moment in global history were New World plants. The agriculture of indigenous peoples mythically and materially shaped English society and, subsequently, its literature in new and startling ways.

Sacred Seeds examines New World plants—tobacco, amaranth, guaiacum, and the prickly pear cactus—and their associated Native myths as they moved across the Atlantic and into English literature. Edward McLean Test reinstates the contributions of indigenous peoples to European society, charting an alternative cultural history that explores the associations and assemblages of transatlantic multiplicity rather than Eurocentric homogeny.


Author Bio

Edward McLean Test is a professor of English at Boise State University.


"Sacred Seeds is engaging, richly informative, and a joy to read."—Anna K. Sagal, Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660–1700

"Sacred Seeds is an important book that underscores the ways in which global botanical knowledge and management has the power to shape human cultures and interactions for better or for worse. It is a timely topic in a world of border crossings, monoculture, and dwindling biodiversity among native plants."—Nicole A. Jacobs, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

"The breadth of source material that Sacred Seeds addresses makes the work a tremendously useful resource for anyone studying the European representation of the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries or seeking to more fully understand the transnational contexts influencing early modern English culture."—Andrea Crow, Renaissance Quarterly

"A hugely enjoyable, ambitious and readable book."—Michael H Whitworth, Professor of Modern Literature and Culture, Merton College

“Edward McLean Test shows how Eurocentrism has impoverished our understanding of the early modern world. . . . Test insists on the contributions of indigenous peoples to European society, showing how their ideas and stories, as well as their plants, changed Europe. He also reveals the power of literature as an agent of historical change.”—Frances E. Dolan, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Davis

“We need a global early modern studies, and this book will help us make one. Test’s wide-ranging and erudite study enriches the environmental humanities through its deep familiarity with English, Spanish, and Native American texts and contexts, as well as his shrewd engagement with the theoretical insights of contemporary ecocriticism. . . . Test’s book will take its place as one of the significant works in creating the fully global, multilingual, and multiethnic understanding of early modernity that we need today.”—Steve Mentz, professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. New Seeds, Strange Countries: Herbals
2. People of the Figs: Travel Writing
3. King Tobacco: A Study in Genre
4. The Holy Wood of America: Guaiac and The Faerie Queene
5. Love Lies Bleeding: Amaranth and The Faerie Queene

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