Through the figures of Jane Barker, a gentlewoman who lived from 1652 to 1732, and whose work was both circulated in manuscripts as well as print, and Robert Hooke, curator to the Royal Society, this essay shows that experimental science and manuscript culture were premised on a methodology that privileged the existence of multiple perspectives and the splitting of knowledge into facts. In “A Farewell to Poetry with a Long Digression on Anatomy,” Barker, in particular, offers a synthetic take on two issues: (1) the multiplicity of perception, now imaginatively disjointed by microscopy; and (2) the fragmentation of scientific knowledge through putatively social but unrealizable and unrepeatable experiments, exemplified by the microscope and compensated for by the sociality of manuscript verse. As such, “A Farewell to Poetry” is not about anatomy per se; “A Farewell to Poetry” is about how one arrives at a modern understanding of anatomy and approximates scientific certainty.
Research Article|January 01 2019
Rachel Mann; Jane Barker, Manuscript Culture, and the Epistemology of the Microscope. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 January 2019; 43 (1): 50–75. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-7280290
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