“A new discovery of a new world”: The Moon and America in Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-Century European Literature

  • Brycchan Carey
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


In seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Moon voyage narratives, the Moon often acts as a symbol, metaphor or analogy for the New World. Both were “new found lands” following the discoveries of Columbus (1451–1506) and Galileo (1564–1642), and, as several critics have pointed out, the comparison between them is frequently made by authors delighted by the coincidence. This essay argues that the lunar-Atlantic connection ran deeper and signified more than mere happenstance. Literary representations of the Moon, I suggest, allowed authors a figurative space in which both to critique and to applaud Atlantic exploration, discovery and colonization. At the same time, the reality of navigating the Atlantic, a physical space that had previously been thought to be uncrossable, generated the same sorts of anxieties and the same sorts of excitements as the idea of crossing cislunar space. Early Modern Moon voyage narratives, therefore, not only relished in making obvious comparisons between new worlds but also served a political function, engaging critically with colonial policy and practice while at the same time imaginatively opening up the prospect of genuine Moon-voyaging technologies.


Literary Tradition Early Modern Period Colonial Policy Loeb Classical Library Colonial Discourse 
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  1. 3.
    Mary Baine Campbell, Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999), 152.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Marjorie Nicolson, Voyages to the Moon (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1948), 10–22; Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove, Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (London: Victor Gollancz, 1986), 68–70; Adam Roberts, The History of Science Fiction (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 21–35.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Christopher Leslie Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), and Brycchan Carey, From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657–1761 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).Google Scholar
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© Brycchan Carey 2016

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  • Brycchan Carey

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