Many Victorian scientists, including those writing from within the new area of mental science, devoured novels and poetry. In part, they established their authority for the nineteenth-century public by quoting from the literary canon. Writers of literature, in turn, incorporated scientific advances into imaginative writing, although to different degrees and for varied aesthetic and ideological ends. Scientific and literary writers shared paradigms, discourses, and innovative narrative and poetic techniques in order to captivate readers encountering new worlds—whether a world of nerves, Galapagos tortoises, the tyrannosaurus-like movement of London law courts, or processes of courtship in “Wessex.” Assuming a strong interrelationship of body and mind, both groups appealed to the senses, nerves, reasoning, and emotions and to areas then becoming known as “beyond consciousness.” Yet, except for responding to the most recent scientific discoveries, how was nineteenth-century literature any different from that of...
linda m. shires is Ruth and David Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University. Her most recent books are Perspectives: Modes of Seeing and Knowing in Nineteenth-Century England (2009) and Victorians Reading the Romantics: Essays by U. C. Knoepflmacher (Ed.; 2016). Her next book treats self-illustrated texts.
Linda M. Shires; Mentally, Hardy. Novel 1 August 2016; 49 (2): 398–402. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3509229
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