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Victorian Scientific Naturalism examines the secular creeds of the generation of intellectuals who, in the wake of The Origin of Species, wrested cultural authority from the old Anglican establishment while installing themselves as a new professional scientific elite. These scientific naturalists—led by biologists, physicists, and mathematicians such as William Kingdon Clifford, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Thomas Henry Huxley, and John Tyndall—sought to persuade both the state and the public that scientists, not theologians, should be granted cultural authority, since their expertise gave them special insight into society, politics, and even ethics. In Victorian Scientific Naturalism, Gowan Dawson and Bernard Lightman bring together new essays by leading historians of science and literary critics that recall these scientific naturalists, in light of recent scholarship that has tended to sideline them, and that reevaluate their place in the broader landscape of nineteenth-century Britain. Ranging in topic from daring climbing expeditions in the Alps to the maintenance of aristocratic protocols of conduct at Kew Gardens, these essays offer a series of new perspectives on Victorian scientific naturalism—as well as its subsequent incarnations in the early twentieth century—that together provide an innovative understanding of the movement centering on the issues of community, identity, and continuity.
The essays in this volume focus on the way Victorian Physicist John Tyndall and his correspondents developed their ideas through letters, periodicals and journals and challenge assumptions about who gained authority, and how they attained and defended their position within the scientific community.
‘Darwin, Tennyson and Their Readers: Explorations in Victorian Literature and Science’ is an edited collection of essays from leading authorities in the field of Victorian literature and science, including Gillian Beer and George Levine. Darwin, Tennyson, Huxley, Ruskin, Richard Owen, Meredith, Wilde and other major writers are discussed, as established scholars in this area explore the interaction between Victorian literary and scientific figures which helped build the intellectual climate of twenty-first century debates.
During the Victorian period, the practice of science shifted from a religious context to a naturalistic one. It is generally assumed that this shift occurred because naturalistic science was distinct from and superior to theistic science. Yet as Huxley’s Church and Maxwell’s Demon reveals, most of the methodological values underlying scientific practice were virtually identical for the theists and the naturalists: each agreed on the importance of the uniformity of natural laws, the use of hypothesis and theory, the moral value of science, and intellectual freedom. But if scientific naturalism did not rise to dominance because of its methodological superiority, then how did it triumph? Matthew Stanley explores the overlap and shift between theistic and naturalistic science through a parallel study of two major scientific figures: James Clerk Maxwell, a devout Christian physicist, and Thomas Henry Huxley, the iconoclast biologist who coined the word agnostic. Both were deeply engaged in the methodological, institutional, and political issues that were crucial to the theistic-naturalistic transformation. What Stanley’s analysis of these figures reveals is that the scientific naturalists executed a number of strategies over a generation to gain control of the institutions of scientific education and to reimagine the history of their discipline. Rather than a sudden revolution, the similarity between theistic and naturalistic science allowed for a relatively smooth transition in practice from the old guard to the new.
Rae Greiner proposes that sympathy is integral to the form of the classic nineteenth-century realist novel. Following the philosophy of Adam Smith, Greiner argues that sympathy does more than foster emotional identification with others; it is a way of thinking along with them. By abstracting emotions, feelings turn into detached figures of speech that may be shared. Sympathy in this way produces realism; it is the imaginative process through which the real is substantiated. In Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction Greiner shows how this imaginative process of sympathy is written into three novelistic techniques regularly associated with nineteenth-century fiction: metonymy, free indirect discourse, and realist characterization. She explores the work of sentimentalist philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, and Jeremy Bentham and realist novelists Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, and Henry James. -- Adela Pinch, University of Michigan
Examines the dynamic interplay between evolution and Victorian culture, mapping new relationships between the arts and sciences.
Historians of science have long noted the influence of the nineteenth-century political economist Thomas Robert Malthus on Charles Darwin. In a bold move, Piers J. Hale contends that this focus on Malthus and his effect on Darwin’s evolutionary thought neglects a strong anti-Malthusian tradition in English intellectual life, one that not only predated the 1859 publication of the Origin of Species but also persisted throughout the Victorian period until World War I. Political Descent reveals that two evolutionary and political traditions developed in England in the wake of the 1832 Reform Act: one Malthusian, the other decidedly anti-Malthusian and owing much to the ideas of the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck. These two traditions, Hale shows, developed in a context of mutual hostility, debate, and refutation. Participants disagreed not only about evolutionary processes but also on broader questions regarding the kind of creature our evolution had made us and in what kind of society we ought therefore to live. Significantly, and in spite of Darwin’s acknowledgement that natural selection was “the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms,” both sides of the debate claimed to be the more correctly “Darwinian.” By exploring the full spectrum of scientific and political issues at stake, Political Descent offers a novel approach to the relationship between evolution and political thought in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.