Strange Science: Investigating the Limits of Knowledge in the Victorian Age
Lara Karpenko, Shalyn Claggett
University of Michigan Press, 2017 - Literary Criticism - 293 pages
The essays in Strange Science examine marginal, fringe, and unconventional forms of scientific inquiry, as well as their cultural representations, in the Victorian period. Although now relegated to the category of the pseudoscientific, fields like mesmerism and psychical research captured the imagination of the Victorian public. Conversely, many branches of science now viewed as uncontroversial, such as physics and botany, were often associated with unorthodox methods of inquiry. Whether ultimately incorporated into mainstream scientific thought or categorized by 21st century historians as pseudo- or even anti-scientific, these sciences generated conversation, enthusiasm, and controversy within Victorian society.
To date, scholarship addressing Victorian pseudoscience tends to focus either on a particular popular science within its social context or on how mainstream scientific practice distinguished itself from more contested forms. Strange Science takes a different approach by placing a range of sciences in conversation with one another and examining the similar unconventional methods of inquiry adopted by both now-established scientific fields and their marginalized counterparts during the Victorian period. In doing so, Strange Science reveals the degree to which scientific discourse of this period was radically speculative, frequently attempting to challenge or extend the apparent boundaries of the natural world. This interdisciplinary collection will appeal to scholars in the fields of Victorian literature, cultural studies, the history of the body, and the history of science.
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analogy argues atomic Baconian Balfour Stewart Bell Bell’s Besant body botanists botany botany’s boundaries Britain British Bulwer Bulwer-Lytton Caxtoniana century claims clairvoyant colonial critics cultural Darwin deaf describes Dorian Gray Edmund Gurney Edward Bulwer-Lytton empirical ence energy essay ether experience experimenters explores Fechner’s Forbes Forbes’s Francis Galton Galton gender ghost story Gillian Beer Gurney Henry Hill Mystery human Ibid imagination imperial James Journal knowledge Laura Otis lecture Lindley literary Living London Marianne North Martineau mesmerism moral narrative natural theology natural world nineteenth nineteenth-century object observation occult orchid Phantasms phonetic physical physiological plants popular practice psychical ghost Psychical Research psychophysics readers reading scientific scientists sensation fiction sensation novels sense sensory species speculative spiritual SPR’s Stewart and Tait Strange Science suggests sympathetic Tait’s theory Theosophical thermodynamics tion tive Unseen Universe vegetable Victorian Literature Visible Speech vision vocal Wilde’s William women writing Zanoni