The Afterlives of Specimens explores the space between science and sentiment, the historical moment when the human cadaver became both lost love object and subject of anatomical violence. Walt Whitman witnessed rapid changes in relations between the living and the dead. In the space of a few decades, dissection evolved from a posthumous punishment inflicted on criminals to an element of preservationist technology worthy of the presidential corpse of Abraham Lincoln. Whitman transitioned from a fervent opponent of medical bodysnatching to a literary celebrity who left behind instructions for his own autopsy, including the removal of his brain for scientific study.
Grounded in archival discoveries, Afterlives traces the origins of nineteenth-century America’s preservation compulsion, illuminating the influences of botanical, medical, spiritualist, and sentimental discourses on Whitman’s work. Tuggle unveils previously unrecognized connections between Whitman and the leading “medical men” of his era, such as the surgeon John H. Brinton, founding curator of the Army Medical Museum, and Silas Weir Mitchell, the neurologist who discovered phantom limb syndrome. Remains from several amputee soldiers whom Whitman nursed in the Washington hospitals became specimens in the Army Medical Museum.
Tuggle is the first scholar to analyze Whitman’s role in medically memorializing the human cadaver and its abandoned parts.
During the nineteenth century, the content and institutional organization of the sciences evolved dramatically, altering the public's understanding of knowledge. As science grew in importance, many women of letters tried to incorporate it into a female worldview. Nina Baym explores the responses to science displayed in a range of writings by American women. Conceding that they could not become scientists, women insisted, however, that they were capable of understanding science and participating in its discourse. They used their access to publishing to advocate the study and transmission of scientific information to the general public.
Bayms book includes biographies and a full exploration of these women's works. Among those considered are:
• Almira Phelps, author of Familiar Lectures on Botany (it sold 350,000 copies)
• Sarah Hale, who filled Godey's Lady's Book with science articles
• Catharine Esther Beecher, who based her domestic advice on scientific information
• Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, the actual ghostwriter of her husband's popular science essays
• Emily Dickinson, whose poetry is replete with scientific images.
Baym also investigates science in women's novels, writing by and about women doctors, and the scientific claims advanced by women's spiritualist movements. This book truly breaks new ground, outlining a field of inquiry that few have noted exists.
In this impressively interdisciplinary study, Evelyne Ender revisits master literary works to suggest that literature can serve as an experimental laboratory for the study of human remembrance. She shows how memory not only has a factual basis but is inseparable from fictional and aesthetic elements. Beautifully written in accessible prose, and impressive in its scope, the book takes up works by Proust, Woolf, George Eliot, Nerval, Lou Andreas-Salome, and Sigmund Freud, getting to the heart of essential questions about mental images, empirical knowledge, and the devastations of memory loss in ways that are suggestive and profound. Architexts of Memory joins a growing body of work in the lively field of memory studies, drawing from clinical psychology, psychoanalysis, and neurobiology as well as literary studies.
"An important, cogently argued, subtle and rich study of a topic of great interest."
--Mieke Bal, University of Amsterdam
"A work of literary studies positioned at the intersection of tradition and innovation. Evelyne Ender's book brings fashionable cultural concerns to bear on traditional literary texts-her superb pedagogical skills lure and guide the reader through the most difficult psychoanalytical concepts."
--Nelly Furman, Cornell University
Evelyne Ender is Professor of French Studies, University of Washington. She is the author of Sexing the Mind: Nineteenth-Century Fictions of Hysteria.
In The Biopolitics of Feeling Kyla Schuller unearths the forgotten, multiethnic sciences of impressibility—the capacity to be transformed by one's environment and experiences—to uncover how biopower developed in the United States. Schuller challenges prevalent interpretations of biopower and literary cultures to reveal how biopower emerged within the discourses and practices of sentimentalism. Through analyses of evolutionary theories, gynecological sciences, abolitionist poetry and other literary texts, feminist tracts, child welfare reforms, and black uplift movements, Schuller excavates a vast apparatus that regulated the capacity of sensory and emotional feeling in an attempt to shape the evolution of the national population. Her historical and theoretical work exposes the overlooked role of sex difference in population management and the optimization of life, illuminating how models of binary sex function as one of the key mechanisms of racializing power. Schuller thereby overturns long-accepted frameworks of the nature of race and sex difference, offers key corrective insights to modern debates surrounding the equation of racism with determinism and the liberatory potential of ideas about the plasticity of the body, and reframes contemporary notions of sentiment, affect, sexuality, evolution, and heredity.
The scientific discovery that chaotic systems embody deep structures of order is one of such wide-ranging implications that it has attracted attention across a spectrum of disciplines, including the humanities. In this volume, fourteen theorists explore the significance for literary and cultural studies of the new paradigm of chaotics, forging connections between contemporary literature and the science of chaos. They examine how changing ideas of order and disorder enable new readings of scientific and literary texts, from Newton's Principia to Ruskin's autobiography, from Victorian serial fiction to Borges's short stories.
N. Katherine Hayles traces shifts in meaning that chaos has undergone within the Western tradition, suggesting that the science of chaos articulates categories that cannot be assimilated into the traditional dichotomy of order and disorder. She and her contributors take the relation between order and disorder as a theme and develop its implications for understanding texts, metaphors, metafiction, audience response, and the process of interpretation itself. Their innovative and diverse work opens the interdisciplinary field of chaotics to literary inquiry.
In this striking social history, Barbara M. Benedict draws on the texts of the early modern period to discover the era's attitudes toward curiosity, a trait we learn was often depicted as an unsavory form of transgression or cultural ambition.
Levine shows how Darwin's ideas affected nineteenth-century novelists—from Dickens and Trollope to Conrad. "Levine stands in our day as the premier critic and commentator on Victorian prose."—Frank M. Turner, Nineteenth-Century Literature. "Magnificently written, with a care and delicacy worthy of its subject."—Nina Auerbach, University of Pennsylvania
Reading eight major contemporary authors through the lens of chaos theory, Conte offers new and original interpretations of works that have been the subject of much critical debate.
Design and Debris discusses the relationship between order and disorder in the works of John Hawkes, Harry Mathews, John Barth, Gilbert Sorrentino, Robert Coover, Thomas Pynchon, Kathy Acker, and Don DeLillo. In analyzing their work, Joseph Conte brings to bear a unique approach adapted from scientific thought: chaos theory. His chief concern is illuminating those works whose narrative structures locate order hidden in disorder (whose authors Conte terms "proceduralists"), and those whose structures reflect the opposite, disorder emerging from states of order (whose authors Conte calls "disruptors").
Documenting the paradigm shift from modernism, in which artists attempted to impose order on a disordered world, to postmodernism, in which the artist portrays the process of "orderly disorder," Conte shows how the shift has led to postmodern artists' embrace of science in their treatment of complex ideas. Detailing how chaos theory interpenetrates disciplines as varied as economics, politics, biology, and cognitive science, he suggests a second paradigm shift: from modernist specialization to postmodern pluralism. In such a pluralistic world, the novel is freed from the purely literary and engages in a greater degree of interactivity-between literature and science, and between author and reader. Thus, Conte concludes, contemporary literature is a literature of flux and flexibility.
"Dying to Know is the work of a distinguished scholar, at the peak of his powers, who is intimately familiar with his materials, and whose knowledge of Victorian fiction and scientific thought is remarkable. This elegant and evocative look at the move toward objectivity first pioneered by Descartes sheds new light on some old and still perplexing problems in modern science." Bernard Lightman, York University, Canada
In Dying to Know, eminent critic George Levine makes a landmark contribution to the history and theory of scientific knowledge. This long-awaited book explores the paradoxes of our modern ideal of objectivity, in particular its emphasis on the impersonality and disinterestedness of truth. How, asks Levine, did this idea of selfless knowledge come to be established and moralized in the nineteenth century?
Levine shows that for nineteenth-century scientists, novelists, poets, and philosophers, access to the truth depended on conditions of such profound self-abnegation that pursuit of it might be taken as tantamount to the pursuit of death. The Victorians, he argues, were dying to know in the sense that they could imagine achieving pure knowledge only in a condition where the body ceases to make its claims: to achieve enlightenment, virtue, and salvation, one must die.
Dying to Know is ultimately a study of this moral ideal of epistemology. But it is also something much more: a spirited defense of the difficult pursuit of objectivity, the ethical significance of sacrifice, and the importance of finding a shareable form of knowledge.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, geology—and its claims that the earth had a long and colorful prehuman history—was widely dismissedasdangerous nonsense. But just fifty years later, it was the most celebrated of Victorian sciences. Ralph O’Connor tracks the astonishing growth of geology’s prestige in Britain, exploring how a new geohistory far more alluring than the standard six days of Creation was assembled and sold to the wider Bible-reading public.
Shrewd science-writers, O’Connor shows, marketed spectacular visions of past worlds, piquing the public imagination with glimpses of man-eating mammoths, talking dinosaurs, and sea-dragons spawned by Satan himself. These authors—including men of science, women, clergymen, biblical literalists, hack writers, blackmailers, and prophets—borrowed freely from the Bible, modern poetry, and the urban entertainment industry, creating new forms of literature in order to transport their readers into a vanished and alien past.
In exploring the use of poetry and spectacle in the promotion of popular science, O’Connor proves that geology’s success owed much to the literary techniques of its authors. An innovative blend of the history of science, literary criticism, book history, and visual culture, The Earth on Show rethinks the relationship between science and literature in the nineteenth century.
Victorian poetry shocks with the physicality of its formal effects, linking the rhythms of the human body to the natural pulsation of the universe. In Electric Meters: Victorian Physiological Poetics Jason R. Rudy connects formal poetic innovations to developments in the electrical and physiological sciences, arguing that the electrical sciences and bodily poetics cannot be separated, and that they came together with special force in the years between the 1830s, which witnessed the invention of the electric telegraph, and the 1870s, when James Clerk Maxwell’s electric field theory transformed the study of electrodynamics.
Combining formal poetic analysis with cultural history, Rudy traces the development of Victorian physiological poetics from the Romantic poetess tradition through to the works of Alfred Tennyson, the “Spasmodic” poets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Algernon Swinburne, among others. He demonstrates how poetic rhythm came increasingly to be understood throughout the nineteenth century as a physiological mechanism, as poets across class, sex, and national boundaries engaged intensely and in a variety of ways with the human body’s subtle response to rhythmic patterns. Whether that opportunity for transcendence was interpersonal or spiritual in nature, nineteenth–century poets looked to electricity as a model for overcoming boundaries, for communicating across the gaps between sound and sense, between emotion and thought, and—perhaps—between individuals in the modern world.
Electric Meters will appeal to those interested in poetry of any period and particularly those interested in nineteenth–century culture and history.
As much a doubter as a believer, Emily Dickinson often expressed views about God in general—and God with respect to suffering in particular. In many of her poems, she contemplates the question posed by countless theologians and poets before her: how can one reconcile a benevolent deity with evil in the world?
Examining Dickinson’s perspectives on the role played by a supposedly omnipotent and all-loving God in a world marked by violence and pain, Patrick Keane initially focuses on her poem “Apparently with no surprise,” in which frost, a “blonde Assassin,” beheads a “happy Flower,” a spectacle presided over by “an Approving God.” This tiny lyric,Keane shows, epitomizes the poet’s embattled relationship with the deity of her Calvinist tradition.
Although the problem of sufferingis usually couched in terms of natural disasters or human injustice, Dickinson found new ways of considering it. By choosing a flower as her innocent “victim,” she bypassed standard “answers” to the dilemma (suffering as justified punishment for wickedness, or as attributable to the assertion of free will) in order to focus on the problem in its purest symbolic form. Keane goes on toprovide close readings of many of Dickinson’s poems and letters engaging God, showing how she addressed the challenges posed—by her own experience and by an innate skepticism reinforced by a nascent Darwinism—to the argument from design and the concept of a benevolent deity.
More than a dissection of a single poem, Keane’s book is a sweeping personal reflection on literature and religion, faith and skepticism, theology and science. He traces the evolving history of the Problem of Suffering from the Hebrew Scriptures (Job and Ecclesiastes), through the writings of Paul, Augustine, and Aquinas, to the most recent theological and philosophical studies of the problem. Keane is interested in how readers today respond to Emily Dickinson’s often combative poems about God; at the same time, she is located as a poet whose creative life coincided with the momentous changes and challenges to religious faith associated with Darwin andNietzsche.Keane also considers Dickinson’s poems and letters in the context of the great Romantic tradition, as it runs fromMilton throughWordsworth, demonstrating how thework of these poets (perhaps surprisingly in the case of the latter)helps illuminate Dickinson’s poetry and thought.
Because Dickinson the poet was also Emily the gardener, her love of flowers was an appropriate vehicle for her observations on mortality and her expressions of doubt. Emily Dickinson’s Approving God is a graceful study that reveals not only the audacity of Dickinson’s thought but also its relevance to modern readers. In light of ongoing confrontations between Darwinism and design, science and literal conceptions of a divine Creator, it is an equally provocative read for students of literature and students of life.
This book follows the interplay between allegory and physics in Europe from the inception of the laws of thermodynamics in the 1850s to the cultural acceptance of the theory of relativity in the 1920s. Bruce Clarke delves into the cultural poetics of this emergence, as well as using allegory theory to link the literature of that era to the consolidation of modern physics in England. In his examination of these correlating topics the author displays not only an impressive grasp on the scientific climate of that era, but also comprehensive knowledge of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature.
The book begins with an overview of the interconnections between allegory in literature and allegory in science, then analyzes the interaction between energy and entropy and their personification in the literature of the times. Energy Forms draws on the writing of well-known literary and scientific authors including H. G. Wells, Camille Flammarion, Charles Howard Hinton and D. H. Lawrence, among others. The focus then shifts to the broad cultural tension between thermodynamic malaise and electromagnetic aspiration. Energy Forms uncovers the works of important but overlooked authors in the fields of science and literature and will appeal especially to those who are intrigued by interdisciplinary studies.
Bruce Clarke is Professor of English,Texas Tech University. He is the author of Dora Marsden and Early Modernism: Gender, Individualism, Science; Allegories of Writing: The Subject of Metamorphosis; and editor of The Body and the Text: Comparative Essays in Literature and Medicine.
In Fiction Refracts Science, Allen Thiher demonstrates that major modernists, in their concern with the sciences, were strongly influenced by them. He argues that there are direct relations between science and the formal shape of fiction developed by some of the most important modernists. Especially relevant for his arguments are modern cosmology and quantum mechanics, as well as examples from mathematics, biology, and medicine.
Thiher begins his study by examining the question about the two cultures—scientific and humanistic—that is often invoked in discussions of their relationship. He outlines the essential context for understanding how science was perceived by modernist novelists. This background included Pascalian and Newtonian cosmology, Darwinism, and the questions of epistemology ushered in by relativity theory and quantum mechanics. He then devotes a chapter each to Musil, Proust, Kafka, and Joyce in which he focuses on epistemology and on ideas about law in science and literature.
Thiher goes on to describe the subsequent development of modernist fiction. He proposes that, after Joyce, thought experiments dominated the relations between science and later modernist fiction, as exemplified by Woolf, Faulkner, and Borges. In conclusion Thiher addresses the ongoing development of these experiments in postmodern fiction and discusses the fortunes of positivism in postmodern fiction.
Written in a clear and accessible style, Fiction Refracts Science will be of interest to specialists in literary modernism, science studies, and the history of science, as well as to scientists themselves.
In Fiction Rivals Science, Allen Thiher describes the epistemic rivalry that the major nineteenth-century French novelists felt in dealing with science. After brief considerations of Stendhal, Thiher focuses on the four most important "realist" novelists in France: Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, and, going into the twentieth century, Proust. According to Thiher, each of these novelists considered himself to be in competition with science to make the novel an instrument for knowledge.
The first chapter sets forth the understanding of science that dominated the early nineteenth century in order to make it plausible that literary minds, throughout the nineteenth century, thought that they could not only rival science, but even make positive contributions to knowledge. The Newtonian paradigm that had dominated the Enlightenment was slowly being challenged by new developments both in physics and in nonphysical sciences such as biology. Especially in biology the development of a scientific discourse using narrative temporality favored the idea that novelists could also use fiction to construct discourses that advanced knowledge.
Balzac wanted to construct a natural history of society and correct the chemical theory of his time. Flaubert drew upon medicine and physiology for the rhetoric of his realist fiction. Zola used unsuccessful medical paradigms for his doctrine of heredity, and models drawn from thermodynamics to describe the relation of the individual to societal forces. Finally, Proust drew upon thinkers such as Poincar‚ to elaborate an epistemology that put an end to the rivalry novelists might feel with scientists. Proust located certain knowledge within the realm of human subjectivity while granting the power of laws to rule over the contingent realm of physical reality, in which, after Poincar‚, neither mathematics nor Newton was any longer a source of absolute certainty. Proust's novel is thus the last great realist work of the nineteenth century and the first modernist work of consciousness taking itself as the object of knowledge.
By demonstrating that the great French realist novelists dealt with many of the same problems as did the scientists of the nineteenth century, Fiction Rivals Science attempts to show how culture unites literary and scientific inquiry into knowledge. Providing a new interpretation of the development of literary realism, this important new work will be welcomed not only by literary scholars, but by historians of science and culture as well.
In today’s academe, the fields of science and literature are considered unconnected, one relying on raw data and fact, the other focusing on fiction. During the period between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, however, the two fields were not so distinct. Just as the natural philosophers of the era were discovering in and adopting from literature new strategies and techniques for their discourse, so too were poets and storytellers finding inspiration in natural philosophy, particularly in astronomy.
A work that speaks to the history of science and literary studies, Fictions of the Cosmos explores the evolving relationship that ensued between fiction and astronomical authority. By examining writings of Kepler, Godwin, Hooke, Cyrano, Cavendish, Fontenelle, and others, Frédérique Aït-Touati shows that it was through the telling of stories—such as through accounts of celestial journeys—that the Copernican hypothesis, for example, found an ontological weight that its geometric models did not provide. Aït-Touati draws from both cosmological treatises and fictions of travel and knowledge, as well as personal correspondences, drawings, and instruments, to emphasize the multiple borrowings between scientific and literary discourses. This volume sheds new light on the practices of scientific invention, experimentation, and hypothesis formation by situating them according to their fictional or factual tendencies.
In The Forgotten Tribe: Scientists as Writers, Lisa Emerson offers an important corrective to the view that scientists are "poor writers, unnecessarily opaque, not interested in writing, and in need of remediation." She argues that scientists are among "the most sophisticated and flexible writers in the academy, often writing for a wider range of audiences (their immediate disciplinary peers, peers in adjacent fields, a broad scientific audience, industry, and a range of public audiences including social media) than most other faculty." Moreover, she notes, the often collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of their work results in writing practices that "may be more socially complex, and require more articulation, mediation, and interpersonal communication, and more use of advanced media and technology than those of faculty in other disciplines."
Drawing on extensive interviews with scientists, Emerson argues that writing scholars have "engaged in a form of cultural appropriation" that has worked against a deeper understanding of the contexts in which scientists work and the considerations they bring to their writing. Emerson grounds her analysis in the voices of scientists in a way that allows us to understand not only how they approach writing but also how we might usefully teach writing in the sciences. The Forgotten Tribe offers a valuable contribution to our understanding of scientific writing, allowing us to hear voices that are seldom included in our discussions of this critical area.
Lucinda Cole’s Imperfect Creatures offers the first full-length study of the shifting, unstable, but foundational status of “vermin” as creatures and category in the early modern literary, scientific, and political imagination. In the space between theology and an emergent empiricism, Cole’s argument engages a wide historical swath of canonical early modern literary texts—William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, Abraham Cowley’s The Plagues of Egypt, Thomas Shadwell’s The Virtuoso, the Earl of Rochester’s “A Ramble in St. James’s Park,” and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Journal of the Plague Year—alongside other nonliterary primary sources and under-examined archival materials from the period, including treatises on animal trials, grain shortages, rabies, and comparative neuroanatomy.
As Cole illustrates, human health and demographic problems—notably those of feeding populations periodically stricken by hunger, disease, and famine—were tied to larger questions about food supplies, property laws, national identity, and the theological imperatives that underwrote humankind’s claim to dominion over the animal kingdom. In this context, Cole’s study indicates, so-called “vermin” occupied liminal spaces between subject and object, nature and animal, animal and the devil, the devil and disease—even reason and madness. This verminous discourse formed a foundational category used to carve out humankind’s relationship to an unpredictable, irrational natural world, but it evolved into a form for thinking about not merely animals but anything that threatened the health of the body politic—humans, animals, and even thoughts.
The Victorian era was characterized by great scientific curiosity—as exemplified by the publication of Darwin’s Descent of Man—as well as by new questions regarding the place of women in society. Patricia Murphy now explores the tenuous interplay of gender and science to show how the era’s literature both challenged and reinforced a constrictive role for Victorian women. Focusing on a specific body of literature involving women intensely associated with scientific pursuits, and examining selected noncanonical writings—both fictional and nonfictional representations of scientific women—Murphy demonstrates how these works informed the “Woman Question” by reinforcing or rejecting presumed truths about gender and science.
Some of these texts offer lucid insights into the ways in which women were defined, marginalized, and excluded. In his novel Two on a Tower, Thomas Hardy presented science as a masculine realm threatened by female intrusion, while Wilkie Collins in Heart and Science depicted a woman interested in science as a villainous schemer who falls far short of the Victorian ideal of femininity. And although Charles Reade’s novel A Woman-Hater was more sympathetic in its portrayal of a female physician, it continued to reinforce Victorian stereotypes.
In contrast, Murphy also shows us the poetry of science enthusiast Constance Naden, who used the language of the discipline to reflect its marginalization of women. Murphy also uses the travel memoirs of botanical painter Marianne North, which reveal her attempts to achieve a gender-neutral voice to position her work within the Victorian scientific realm. Through the words of these women, Murphy shows how popular notions of women’s inferiority and marginality were internalized and addressed.
These close readings further elucidate the status of women in late-nineteenth-century England and show how prejudices about women’s intellectual inferiority infiltrated popular culture. In Science’s Shadow makes new inroads in the study of gendered scientific discourse while introducing readers to some little-known, but most revealing, literary works
Taking as his point of departure Norbert Weiner’s statement that information is basic to understanding materialism in our era, Ronald Schleifer shows how discoveries of modern physics have altered conceptions of matter and energy and the ways in which both information theory and the study of literature can enrich these conceptions. Expanding the reductive notion of “the material” as simply matter and energy, he formulates a new, more inclusive idea of materialism.
Schleifer’s project attempts to bridge the divisions between the humanities and the sciences and to create a nonreductive materialism for the information age. He presents a materialistic account of human bodily experience by delving into language and literature that powerfully represents our faces, voices, hands, and pain. For example, he examines the material resources of poetic “literariness” as it is revealed in the condition of Tourette’s syndrome. Schleifer also investigates gestures of the hand in the formation of sociality, and he studies pain as both a physiological and phenomenological experience.
This ambitious work explores physiological analyses, evolutionary explanations, and semiotic descriptions of materialism to reveal how aspects of physical existence discover meaning in experience.
Joyce, Chaos, and Complexity
Thomas Jackson Rice University of Illinois Press, 1997 Library of Congress PR6019.O9Z78455 1997 | Dewey Decimal 823.912
Thomas Rice compellingly argues that James Joyce's work resists postmodernist approaches of ambiguity: Joyce never abandoned his conviction that reality exists, regardless of the human ability to represent it.
Placing Joyce in his cultural context, Rice first traces the influence of Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries on Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. He then demonstrates that, when later innovations in science transformed entire worldviews, Joyce recognized conventional literary modes of representation as offering only arbitrary constructions of this reality. Joyce responded in Ulysses by experimenting with perspective, embedding design, and affirming the existence of reality. Rice contends that Ulysses presages the multiple tensions of chaos theory; likewise, chaos theory can serve as a model for understanding Ulysses. In Finnegans Wake Joyce consummates his vision and anticipates the theories of complexity science through a dynamic approximation of reality.
This book investigates the relationships between modern mathematics and science (in particular, quantum mechanics) and the mode of theorizing that Arkady Plotnitsky defines as "nonclassical" and identifies in the work of Bohr, Heisenberg, Lacan, and Derrida. Plotinsky argues that their scientific and philosophical works radically redefined the nature and scope of our knowledge. Building upon their ideas, the book finds a new, nonclassical character in the "dream of great interconnections" Bohr described, thereby engaging with recent debates about the "two cultures" (the humanities and the sciences).
Plotnitsky highlights those points at which the known gives way to the unknown (and unknowable). These points are significant, he argues, because they push the boundaries of thought and challenge the boundaries of disciplinarity. One of the book's most interesting observations is that key figures in science, in order to push toward a framing of the unknown, actually retreated into a conservative disciplinarity. Plotnitsky's informed, interdisciplinary approach is more productive than the disparaging attacks on postmodernism or scientism that have hitherto characterized this discourse.
Arkady Plotnitsky is Professor of English and Director, Theory and Cultural Studies Program, Purdue University. Trained in both mathematics and literary theory, he is author of several books, including In the Shadow of Hegel: Complementarity, History and the Unconscious and Reconfigurations: Critical Theory and General Economy.
In recent years, articles in major periodicals from the New York Times Magazine to the Times Literary Supplement have heralded the arrival of a new school of literary studies that promises-or threatens-to profoundly shift the current paradigm. This revolutionary approach, known as Darwinian literary studies, is based on a few simple premises: evolution has produced a universal landscape of the human mind that can be scientifically mapped; these universal tendencies are reflected in the composition, reception, and interpretation of literary works; and an understanding of the evolutionary foundations of human behavior, psychology, and culture will enable literary scholars to gain powerful new perspectives on the elements, form, and nature of storytelling.
The goal of this book is to overcome some of the widespread misunderstandings about the meaning of a Darwinian approach to the human mind generally, and literature specifically. The volume brings together scholars from the forefront of the new field of evolutionary literary analysis-both literary analysts who have made evolution their explanatory framework and evolutionist scientists who have taken a serious interest in literature-to show how the human propensity for literature and art can be properly framed as a true evolutionary problem. Their work is an important step toward the long-prophesied synthesis of the humanities and what Steven Pinker calls "the new sciences of human nature."
In November 1919, newspapers around the world alerted readers to a sensational new theory of the universe: Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Coming at a time of social, political, and economic upheaval, Einstein’s theory quickly became a rich cultural resource with many uses beyond physical theory. Media coverage of relativity in Britain took on qualities of pastiche and parody, as serious attempts to evaluate Einstein’s theory jostled with jokes and satires linking relativity to everything from railway budgets to religion. The image of a befuddled newspaper reader attempting to explain Einstein’s theory to his companions became a set piece in the popular press.
Loving Faster than Light focuses on the popular reception of relativity in Britain, demonstrating how abstract science came to be entangled with class politics, new media technology, changing sex relations, crime, cricket, and cinematography in the British imagination during the 1920s. Blending literary analysis with insights from the history of science, Katy Price reveals how cultural meanings for Einstein’s relativity were negotiated in newspapers with differing political agendas, popular science magazines, pulp fiction adventure and romance stories, detective plots, and esoteric love poetry. Loving Faster than Light is an essential read for anyone interested in popular science, the intersection of science and literature, and the social and cultural history of physics.
In Mimesis and the Human Animal, Robert Storey argues that human culture derives from human biology and that literary representation therefore must have a biological basis. As he ponders the question "What does it mean to say that art imitates life?" he must consider both "What is life?" and "What is art?"
A unique approach to the subject of mimesis, Storey's book goes beyond the politicizing of literature grounded in literary theory to develop a scientific basis for the creation of literature and art.
New Science, New World
Denise Albanese Duke University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PR438.S35A43 1996 | Dewey Decimal 820.9356
In New Science, New World Denise Albanese examines the discursive interconnections between two practices that emerged in the seventeenth century—modern science and colonialism. Drawing on the discourse analysis of Foucault, the ideology-critique of Marxist cultural studies, and de Certeau’s assertion that the modern world produces itself through alterity, she argues that the beginnings of colonialism are intertwined in complex fashion with the ways in which the literary became the exotic “other” and undervalued opposite of the scientific. Albanese reads the inaugurators of the scientific revolution against the canonical authors of early modern literature, discussing Galileo’s Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems and Bacon’s New Atlantis as well as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. She examines how the newness or “novelty” of investigating nature is expressed through representations of the New World, including the native, the feminine, the body, and the heavens. “New” is therefore shown to be a double sign, referring both to the excitement associated with a knowledge oriented away from past practices, and to the oppression and domination typical of the colonialist enterprise. Exploring the connections between the New World and the New Science, and the simultaneously emerging patterns of thought and forms of writing characteristic of modernity, Albanese insists that science is at its inception a form of power-knowledge, and that the modern and postmodern division of “Two Cultures,” the literary and the scientific, has its antecedents in the early modern world. New Science, New World makes an important contribution to feminist, new historicist, and cultural materialist debates about the extent to which the culture of seventeenth-century England is proto-modern. It will offer scholars and students from a wide range of fields a new critical model for historical practice.
This fascinating study is the first to examine the history of gender and science fiction and the first to discuss science fiction pulp magazines' images of women, as well as postmodernism and feminist science fiction. Robin Roberts begins with Shelley's Frankenstein, in which a female alien appears, and continues through H. G. Wells, the 1950s pulp science fiction magazines, Doris Lessing and feminist utopias, and the new generation of science fiction writers, including Joan Vinge, Sheila Finch, Vonda McIntyre, Ursula Le Guin, and Octavia Butler.
Writers have created fictions of social perfection at least since Plato’s Republic. Sir Thomas More gave this thread of intellectual history a name when he called his contribution to it Utopia, Greek for noplace.
With each subsequent author cognizant of his predecessors and subject to altered real-world conditions which suggest ever-new causes for hope and alarm, “no place” changed. The fourteen essays presented in this book critically assess man’s fascination with and seeking for “no place.”
“In discussing these central fictions, the contributors see ‘no place’ from diverse perspectives: the sociological, the psychological, the political, the aesthetic. In revealing the roots of these works, the contributors cast back along the whole length of utopian thought. Each essay stands alone; together, the essays make clear what ‘no place’ means today. While it may be true that ‘no place’ has always seemed elsewhere or elsewhen, in fact all utopian fiction whirls contemporary actors through a costume dance no place else but here.”—from the Preface
The contributors are Eric S. Rabkin, B. G. Knepper, Thomas J.Remington, Gorman Beauchamp, William Matter, Ken Davis, Kenneth M. Roemer, William Steinhoff, Howard Segal, Jack Zipes, Kathleen Woodward, Merritt Abrash, and James W. Bittner.
Novel Science is the first in-depth study of the shocking, groundbreaking, and sometimes beautiful writings of the gentlemen of the “heroic age” of geology and of the contribution these men made to the literary culture of their day. For these men, literature was an essential part of the practice of science itself, as important to their efforts as mapmaking, fieldwork, and observation. The reading and writing of imaginative literatures helped them to discover, imagine, debate, and give shape and meaning to millions of years of previously undiscovered earth history.
Borrowing from the historical fictions of Walter Scott and the poetry of Lord Byron, they invented geology as a science, discovered many of the creatures we now call the dinosaurs, and were the first to unravel and map the sequence and structure of stratified rock. As Adelene Buckland shows, they did this by rejecting the grand narratives of older theories of the earth or of biblical cosmogony: theirs would be a humble science, faithfully recording minute details and leaving the big picture for future generations to paint. Buckland also reveals how these scientists—just as they had drawn inspiration from their literary predecessors—gave Victorian realist novelists such as George Eliot, Charles Kingsley, and Charles Dickens a powerful language with which to create dark and disturbing ruptures in the too-seductive sweep of story.
In an analytical yet increasingly intimate conversation, A Passion for Specificity:Confronting Inner Experience in Literature and Science investigates the differences between experience as conveyed in literature and experience as apprehended through scientific method. Can experiences be shared? How much do language and metaphor shape experiential reports? Where is the dividing line between a humanistic and a scientific approach to experience? In a series of exchanges, Marco Caracciolo and Russell Hurlburt demonstrate that those are necessarily personal issues, and they don’t flinch—they relentlessly examine whether Caracciolo’s presuppositions distort his understanding of reading experiences and whether Hurlburt’s attachment to the method he invented causes him to take an overly narrow view of experience. Delving ever more personally, they aim Hurlburt’s experience sampling methods—beeping people to discover what was in their stream of inner experience at the moment immediately before the beep—at Caracciolo’s own experiences, an exercise that puts Caracciolo’s presuppositions to the test and leads him to discover things about experience (his own and literature’s) that he had thought impossible.
A Passion for Specificity, with its personal revelations, unexpected twists, and confrontational style, reads like an epistolary novel, but it is a serious exploration of ideas at the heart of literature and science. It is a thoughtful attempt at advancing the emerging “cognitive humanities,” clarifying a number of core issues in the cross-pollination of literature, psychology, philosophy, and consciousness science.
'Pataphysics, the pseudoscience imagined by Alfred Jarry, has so far, because of its academic frivolity and hermetic perversity, attracted very little scholarly or critical inquiry, and yet it has inspired a century of experimentation. Tracing the place of 'pataphysics in the relationship between science and poetry, Christian Bök shows it is fundamental to the nature of the postmodern, and considers the work of Alfred Jarry and its influence on others.
A long overdue critical look at a significant strain of the twentieth-century avant-garde, 'Pataphysics: The Poetics of Imaginary Science raises important historical, cultural, and theoretical issues germane to the production and reception of poetry, the ways we think about, write, and read it, and the sorts of claims it makes upon our understanding.
At the close of the Second World War, modernist poets found themselves in an increasingly scientific world, where natural and social sciences claimed exclusive rights to knowledge of both matter and mind. Following the overthrow of the Newtonian worldview and the recent, shocking displays of the power of the atom, physics led the way, with other disciplines often turning to the methods and discoveries of physics for inspiration.
In Physics Envy, Peter Middleton examines the influence of science, particularly physics, on American poetry since World War II. He focuses on such diverse poets as Charles Olson, Muriel Rukeyser, Amiri Baraka, and Rae Armantrout, among others, revealing how the methods and language of contemporary natural and social sciences—and even the discourse of the leading popular science magazine Scientific American—shaped their work. The relationship, at times, extended in the other direction as well: leading physicists such as Robert Oppenheimer, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger were interested in whether poetry might help them explain the strangeness of the new, quantum world. Physics Envy is a history of science and poetry that shows how ultimately each serves to illuminate the other in its quest for the true nature of things.
For twenty-first-century veterans of the evolution culture wars, Primitive Minds: Evolution and Spiritual Experience in the Victorian Novel, by Anna Neill, makes unlikely bedfellows of two Victorian “discoveries”: evolutionary theory and spiritualism. Victorian science did much to uncover the physical substratum of mystical or dreamy experience, tracing spiritual states to a lower, reflex, or more evolutionarily primitive stage of consciousness. Yet science’s pursuit of knowledge beyond sense-based evidence uncannily evoked powers associated with this primitive mind: the capacity to link events across space and time, to anticipate the future, to uncover elements of the forgotten past, and to see into the minds of others.
Neill does not ask how the Victorians explained away spiritual experience through physiological psychology, but instead explores how physical explanation interacted with dreamy content in Victorian accounts of the mind’s most exotic productions. This synthesis, she argues, was particularly acute in realist fiction, where, despite novelists’ willingness to trace the nervous origins of individual behavior and its social consequences, activity in hidden regions of the mind enabled levels of perception inaccessible to ordinary waking thought. The authors in her study include Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Thomas Hardy.
Boeckmann links character, literary genre, and science, revealing how major literary works both contributed to and disrupted the construction of race in turn-of-the-century America.
In A Question of Character, Cathy Boeckmann establishes a strong link between racial questions and the development of literary traditions at the end of the 19th century in America. This period saw the rise of "scientific racism," which claimed that the races were distinguished not solely by exterior appearance but also by a set of inherited character traits. As Boeckmann explains, this emphasis on character meant that race was not only a thematic concern in the literature of the period but also a generic or formal one as well.
Boeckmann explores the intersections between race and literary history by tracing the language of character through both scientific and literary writing. Nineteenth-century pseudo-sciences such as phrenology and physiognomy had a vocabulary for discussing racial character that overlapped conceptually with the conventions for portraying race in literature. Through close readings of novels by Thomas Dixon, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Charles Chesnutt, and James Weldon Johnson—each of which deals with a black character "passing" as white—Boeckmann shows how this emphasis on character relates to the shift from romantic and sentimental fiction to realism. Because each of these genres had very specific conventions regarding the representation of character, genres often dictated how races could be depicted.
Galileo never set foot on the Iberian Peninsula, yet, as Enrique García Santo-Tomás unfolds in The Refracted Muse, the news of his work with telescopes brought him to surprising prominence—not just among Spaniards working in the developing science of optometry but among creative writers as well.
While Spain is often thought to have taken little notice of the Scientific Revolution, García Santo-Tomás tells a different story, one that reveals Golden Age Spanish literature to be in close dialogue with the New Science. Drawing on the work of writers such as Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, and Quevedo, he helps us trace the influence of science and discovery on the rapidly developing and highly playful genre of the novel. Indeed, García Santo-Tomás makes a strong case that the rise of the novel cannot be fully understood without taking into account its relationship to the scientific discoveries of the period.
How deeply into the structure of physical reality do the effects of our way of representing it reach? To what extent do constructivist accounts of scientific theorizing involve realist assumptions, and vice versa? This book provides a lucid and concise introduction to contemporary debates, taking as its theme the question of the relationship of representation and reality. It treats in an attractive and accessible way the historical, philosophical, and literary aspects of this question. In particular, it explores how the present relates to and configures claims to scientific knowledge from the past, taking as its main case study On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura), the poem on physics written by the Roman poet Lucretius in the 50s B.C.E.
The book engages in a sustained argument about realist assumptions in scientific and other discourses through detailed analysis and discussion of some of the most important recent contributions to this debate. Engaging sympathetically but not uncritically with constructivist accounts of scientific knowledge, the book takes up a sustained critique of recent contributions to that debate, including those of Ian Hacking, Evelyn Fox Keller, Bruno Latour, and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger. What are the implications of regarding such knowledge as "discovered" or "invented"? How is the rhetoric of such claims to be identified and the pretentions of those claims assessed?In what ways can realist and constructivist approaches be reconciled? How do these considerations affect the way we read scientific texts from the past and regard them historically?
What emerges is a fresh and challenging assessment of the role of time and temporal perspective in assessing claims to knowledge in scientific thought and of the importance of textuality to the history of knowledge. A wide variety of readers, from classicists and intellectual historians to epistemologists of science, will enjoy and learn from Rethinking Reality.
Duncan Kennedy is Reader in Latin Literature and the Theory of Criticism, University of Bristol. He is also the author of The Arts of Love: Five Studies in the Discourse of Roman Love Elegy.
Ryan J. Stark presents a spiritually sensitive, interdisciplinary, and original discussion of early modern English rhetoric. He shows specifically how experimental philosophers attempted to disenchant language
Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin gives us a new and compelling portrait of the poet-thinker as a modern Lucretius--moved to examine the questions raised by Darwin, and willing to challenge his readers with the emerging scientific notions of what it meant to be human.
Combining both intellectual history and detailed analysis of Frost's poems, Robert Faggen shows how Frost's reading of Darwin reflected the significance of science in American culture from Emerson and Thoreau, through James and pragmatism. He provides fresh and provocative readings of many of Frost's shorter lyrics and longer pastoral narratives as they illustrate the impact of Darwinian thought on the concept of nature, with particular exploration of man's relationship to other creatures, the conditions of human equality and racial conflict, the impact of gender and sexual differences, and the survival of religion.
The book shows that Frost was neither a pessimist lamenting the uncertainties of the Darwinian worldview, nor a humanist opposing its power. Faggen draws on Frost's unpublished notebooks to reveal a complex thinker who willingly engaged with the difficult moral and epistemological implications of natural science, and showed their consonance with myths and traditions stretching back to Milton, Lucretius, and the Old Testament. Frost emerges as a thinker for whom poetry was not only artistic expression, but also a forum for the trial of ideas and their impact on humanity.
Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin provides a deeper understanding not only of Frost and modern poetry, but of the meaning of Darwin in the modern world, the complex interrelations of literature and science, and the history of American thought.
"A forceful, appealing study of the Frost-Darwin relation, which has gone little noted by previous scholars, and a fresh explanation of Frost's ambivalent relation to modernism, which he scorned but also influenced" --William Howarth, Princeton University
Robert Faggen is Associate Professor of Literature, Claremont McKenna College and Adjunct Associate Professor, Claremont Graduate School.
"All art should become science and all science art; poetry and philosophy should be made one." Friedrich Schlegel's words perfectly capture the project of the German Romantics, who believed that the aesthetic approaches of art and literature could reveal patterns and meaning in nature that couldn't be uncovered through rationalistic philosophy and science alone. In this wide-ranging work, Robert J. Richards shows how the Romantic conception of the world influenced (and was influenced by) both the lives of the people who held it and the development of nineteenth-century science.
Integrating Romantic literature, science, and philosophy with an intimate knowledge of the individuals involved—from Goethe and the brothers Schlegel to Humboldt and Friedrich and Caroline Schelling—Richards demonstrates how their tempestuous lives shaped their ideas as profoundly as their intellectual and cultural heritage. He focuses especially on how Romantic concepts of the self, as well as aesthetic and moral considerations—all tempered by personal relationships—altered scientific representations of nature. Although historians have long considered Romanticism at best a minor tributary to scientific thought, Richards moves it to the center of the main currents of nineteenth-century biology, culminating in the conception of nature that underlies Darwin's evolutionary theory.
Uniting the personal and poetic aspects of philosophy and science in a way that the German Romantics themselves would have honored, The Romantic Conception of Life alters how we look at Romanticism and nineteenth-century biology.
Thoreau was a poet, a naturalist, a major American writer. Was he also a scientist? He was, Laura Dassow Walls suggests. Her book, the first to consider Thoreau as a serious and committed scientist, will change the way we understand his accomplishment and the place of science in American culture.
Walls reveals that the scientific texts of Thoreau’s day deeply influenced his best work, from Walden to the Journal to the late natural history essays. Here we see how, just when literature and science were splitting into the “two cultures” we know now, Thoreau attempted to heal the growing rift. Walls shows how his commitment to Alexander von Humboldt’s scientific approach resulted in not only his “marriage” of poetry and science but also his distinctively patterned nature studies. In the first critical study of his “The Dispersion of Seeds” since its publication in 1993, she exposes evidence that Thoreau was using Darwinian modes of reasoning years before the appearance of Origin of Species.
This book offers a powerful argument against the critical tradition that opposes a dry, mechanistic science to a warm, “organic” Romanticism. Instead, Thoreau’s experience reveals the complex interaction between Romanticism and the dynamic, law-seeking science of its day. Drawing on recent work in the theory and philosophy of science as well as literary history and theory, Seeing New Worlds bridges today’s “two cultures” in hopes of stimulating a fuller consideration of representations of nature.
These 17 original essays, written for the sixth Eaton Conference on Fantasy and Science Fiction, explore the uses, origins, and forms of future fiction. The contributors are George E. Slusser, Paul Alkon, Marie-Hélène Huet, Howard V. Hendrix, Bradford Lyau, Gregory Benford, José Manuel Mota, Frederik Pohl, George Hay, Colin Greenland, John Huntington, Elizabeth Maslen, W. M. S. and Claire Russell, T. A. Shippey, Kenneth V. Bailey, Gary Kern, and Frank McConnell.
The essays address the question “Do we call up images of future societies in order to prepare for them, or to forestall their ever coming into existence?”
Today we do not expect poems to carry scientifically valid information. But it was not always so. In Sweet Science, Amanda Jo Goldstein returns to the beginnings of the division of labor between literature and science to recover a tradition of Romantic life writing for which poetry was a privileged technique of empirical inquiry.
Goldstein puts apparently literary projects, such as William Blake’s poetry of embryogenesis, Goethe’s journals On Morphology, and Percy Shelley’s “poetry of life,” back into conversation with the openly poetic life sciences of Erasmus Darwin, J. G. Herder, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Such poetic sciences, Goldstein argues, share in reviving Lucretius’s De rerum natura to advance a view of biological life as neither self-organized nor autonomous, but rather dependent on the collaborative and symbolic processes that give it viable and recognizable form. They summon De rerum natura for a logic of life resistant to the vitalist stress on self-authorizing power and to make a monumental case for poetry’s role in the perception and communication of empirical realities. The first dedicated study of this mortal and materialist dimension of Romantic biopoetics, Sweet Science opens a through-line between Enlightenment materialisms of nature and Marx’s coming historical materialism.
After the second World War, the term “technology” came to signify both the anxieties of possible annihilation in a rapidly changing world and the exhilaration of accelerating cultural change. Technomodern Poetics examines how some of the most well-known writers of the era described the tensions between technical, literary, and media cultures at the dawn of the Digital Age. Poets and writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Jack Kerouac, and Frank O’Hara, among others, anthologized in Donald Allen’s iconic The New American Poetry, 1945–1960, provided a canon of work that has proven increasingly relevant to our technological present. Elaborating on the theories of contemporaneous technologists such as Norbert Wiener, Claude Shannon, J. C. R. Licklider, and a host of noteworthy others, these artists express the anxieties and avant-garde impulses they wrestled with as they came to terms with a complex array of issues raised by the dawning of the nuclear age, computer-based automation, and the expansive reach of electronic media. As author Todd Tietchen reveals, even as these writers were generating novel forms and concerns, they often continued to question whether such technological changes were inherently progressive or destructive.
With an undeniable timeliness, Tietchen’s book is sure to appeal to courses in modern English literature and American studies, as well as among fans of Beat writers and early Cold War culture.
Between the 1910s and 1940s, American women fought for and won the right to legal birth control. This battle was fought in the courts, in the media, and in the pages of American literature. Textual Contraception: Birth Control and Modern American Fiction examines the relationship between aesthetic production and political activism in the birth control movement. It concludes that, by dramatically bringing to life the rhetorical issues, fiction played a significant role in shaping public consciousness. Concurrently, the potential for female control inherent in contraception influenced literary technique and reception, supporting new narrative possibilities for female characters beyond marriage and motherhood.
Merging cultural analysis and literary scholarship, this compelling work moves from a consideration of how cultural forces shaped literary production and political activism to a close examination of how fictional representations of contraception influenced the terms of public discourse on marriage, motherhood, economics, and eugenics.
By analyzing popular fiction such as Mother by Kathleen Norris, radical periodicals such as The Masses and Birth Control Review, and literature by authors from Theodore Dreiser to William Faulkner, and Nella Larsen to Mary McCarthy, Beth Widmaier Capo reveals the rich cross-influence of contraceptive and literary history
This focused but far-reaching work by the distinguished scholar Angus Fletcher reveals how early modern science and English poetry were in many ways components of one process: discovering the secrets of motion. Beginning with the achievement of Galileo, Time, Space, and Motion identifies the problem of motion as the central cultural issue of the time, pursued through the poetry of the age, from Marlowe and Shakespeare to Ben Jonson and Milton.
Britain in the long nineteenth century developed an increasing interest in science of all kinds. Whilst poets and novelists took inspiration from technical and scientific innovations, those directly engaged in these new disciplines relied on literary techniques to communicate their discoveries to a wider audience. The essays in this collection uncover this symbiotic relationship between literature and science, at the same time bridging the disciplinary gulf between the history of science and literary studies. Specific case studies include the engineering language used by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the role of physiology in the development of the sensation novel and how mass communication made people lonely.
The eighteenth-century comic novelist Tobias Smollett has often been criticized for the extreme physicality of his writing, which is full of scatological images and graphic depictions of bodily injury and disintegration.
Aileen Douglas draws on feminist and other new theoretical perspectives to reassess Smollett's entire body of fiction as well as his classic Travels through France and Italy. Like many writers of his time, Douglas argues, Smollett was interested in the body and in how accurately it reflects internal disposition. But Smollett's special contribution to the eighteenth-century novel is his emphasis on sentience, or the sensations of the physical body. Looking at such works as The Adventures of Roderick Random, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, and The History and Adventures of an Atom, Douglas explores the ways Smollett uses representations of sentience—especially torment and pain—in his critique of the social and political order.
Trained in medicine, Smollett was especially alert to the ways in which the discourses of medicine, philosophy, and law construct (as we would put it now) the body as an object of knowledge, and yet his work always returns to the importance of the physical world of the body and its feelings. Smollett reminds us, as Douglas aptly puts it, that "if you prick a socially constructed body, it still bleeds."
Nineteenth-century England witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of publications and institutions devoted to the creation and the dissemination of knowledge: encyclopedias, scientific periodicals, instruction manuals, scientific societies, children’s literature, mechanics’ institutes, museums of natural history, and lending libraries. In Useful Knowledge Alan Rauch presents a social, cultural, and literary history of this new knowledge industry and traces its relationships within nineteenth-century literature, ending with its eventual confrontation with Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Rauch discusses both the influence and the ideology of knowledge in terms of how it affected nineteenth-century anxieties about moral responsibility and religious beliefs. Drawing on a wide array of literary, scientific, and popular works of the period, the book focusses on the growing importance of scientific knowledge and its impact on Victorian culture. From discussions of Jane Webb Loudon’s The Mummy! and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor, Charles Kingsley’s Alton Locke, and George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, Rauch paints a fascinating picture of nineteenth-century culture and addresses issues related to the proliferation of knowledge and the moral issues of this time period. Useful Knowledge touches on social and cultural anxieties that offer both historical and contemporary insights on our ongoing preoccupation with knowledge. Useful Knowledge will appeal to readers interested in nineteenth century history, literature, culture, the mediation of knowledge, and the history of science.
Winner of the British Society for Literature and Science Annual Prize, 2011
Winner of the Cultural Studies in English Prize, 2012
This book explores the role of vision and the culture of observation in Victorian and modernist ways of seeing. Willis charts the characterization of vision through four organizing principles—small, large, past and future—to survey Victorian conceptions of what vision was. He then explores how this Victorian vision influenced twentieth-century ways of seeing, when anxieties over visual "truth" became entwined with modernist rejections of objectivity.
Robert M. Thorson Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress PS3048.T55 2013 | Dewey Decimal 818.303
Walden's Shore explores Thoreau's understanding of the "living rock" on which life's complexity depends--not as metaphor but as physical science. Robert Thorson's subject is Thoreau the rock and mineral collector, interpreter of landscapes, and field scientist whose compass and measuring stick were as important to him as his plant press.
This remarkably ambitious work relates changes in scientific and medical thought during the Scientific Revolution (circa 1500–1700) to the emergence of new principles and practices for interpreting language, texts, and nature. An invaluable history of ideas about the nature of language during this period, The Word of God and the Languages of Man also explores the wider cultural origins and impact of these ideas. Its broad and deeply complex picture of a profound sociocultural and intellectual transformation will alter our definition of the scientific revolution.
James J. Bono shows how the new interpretive principles and scientific practices of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries evolved in response to new views of the relationship between the “Word of God” and the “Languages of Man” fostered by Renaissance Humanism, Neoplatonism, magic, and both the reformed and radical branches of Protestantism. He traces the cultural consequences of these ideas in the thought and work of major and minor actors in the scientific revolution—from Ficino and Paracelsus to Francis Bacon and Descartes. By considering these natural philosophers in light of their own intellectual, religious, philosophical, cultural, linguistic, and especially narrative frameworks, Bono suggests a new way of viewing the sociocultural dynamics of scientific change in the pre–modern period—and ultimately, a new way of understanding the nature and history of scientific thought. The narrative configuration he proposes provides a powerful alternative to the longstanding “revolutionary” metaphor of the history of the scientific revolution.
Worms. Natural history is riddled with them. Literature is crawling with them. From antiquity to today, the ubiquitous and multiform worm provokes an immediate discomfort and unconscious distancing: it remains us against them in anthropocentric anxiety. So there is always something muddled, or dirty, or even offensive when talking about worms. Rehabilitating the lowly worm into a powerful aesthetic trope, Janelle A. Schwartz proposes a new framework for understanding such a strangely animate nature. Worms, she declares, are the very matter with which the Romantics rethought the relationship between a material world in constant flux and the human mind working to understand it.
Worm Work studies the lesser-known natural historical records of Abraham Trembley and his contemporaries and the familiar works of Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin, William Blake, Mary Shelley, and John Keats, to expose the worm as an organism that is not only reviled as a taxonomic terror but revered as a sign of great order in nature as well as narrative. This book traces a pattern of cultural production, a vermiculture that is as transformative of matter as it is of mind. It distinguishes decay or division as positive processes in Romantic era writings, compounded by generation or renewal and used to represent the biocentric, complex structuring of organicism.
Offering the worm as an archetypal figure through which to recast the evolution of a literary order alongside questions of taxonomy from 1740 to 1820 and on, Schwartz unearths Romanticism as a rich humus of natural historical investigation and literary creation.