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UGC Literature and Science Workshop

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Anthony Mandal

on 10 December 2013

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Transcript of UGC Literature and Science Workshop

Anthony Mandal (ENCAP)
It’s Alive!
Gothic and Sensational Science
The scientist is the epitome of the alienated autonomous individual, the loner par excellence, a cerebral questor who, in his laboratory (the new castle that in films becomes the central image for Frankenstein) has to detach himself not only from the objects of his analysis but from all relationships.
Maggie Kilgour, <The Rise of the Gothic Novel> (London & New York, 1995), 195
After <Frankenstein>, the figure of the scientist in fiction has, almost as a rule, to be that of an aspiring young medical student who dabbles in galvanism, and whose long hours in the seclusion of the laboratory engender or reinforce a misanthropic, or at best, insensitive, disregard for his social bonds and duties.
Chris Baldick, <In Frankenstein’s Shadow> (Oxford, 1987), 142
Relationship between science and ‘genre’ writing, focusing on:
gothic fiction
sensation novel
scientific romance
But other genre forms:
adventure story
nautical tale
criminography
imperial romance
etc.
But also interactions between other ‘serious’ forms, e.g. naturalism:
I have reached this point: the experimental novel is a consequence of the scientific evolution of the century; it continues and completes physiology, which itself leans for support on chemistry and medicine; it substitutes for the study of the abstract and the metaphysical man the study of the natural man, governed by physical and chemical laws, and modified by the influences of his surroundings; it is in one word the literature of our scientific age, as the classical and romantic literature corresponded to a scholastic and theological age.
Emile Zola, ‘The Experimental Novel’ (1880)
Genre writing
and science

After <Frankenstein>, the figure of the scientist in fiction has, almost as a rule, to be that of an aspiring young medical student who dabbles in galvanism, and whose long hours in the seclusion of the laboratory engender or reinforce a misanthropic, or at best, insensitive, disregard for his social bonds and duties.
Chris Baldick, <In Frankenstein’s Shadow> (Oxford, 1987), 142
genre fictions: ‘subaltern’ writing OR revealing cultural documents?
The gothic
emerges mid-c18, post-Enlightenment context
but caught in wake of French Revolution context of 1790s

multiple and myriad forms, but central focus on supernatural
first wave focused on 1790s–1810s
later, domestic manifestations in Victorian era in more generalized ways
gothic concerned with collapse of boundaries
focus on modernity, and clash between past and present
fin-de-siecle context:
race and empire; industrialization and urbanization; disease and addiction; scientific excess and technology
[T]he Gothic represents human bodies as between species: always already in a state of indifferentiation, or undergoing metamorphoses into a bizarre assortment of human/not-human configurations.
Kelly Hurley, <The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle> (Cambridge, 1996), 10
Sensation fiction
key period: 1860s

focus on domestic and material, rather than supernatural
concerned with clash between appearance and reality
linked to anxieties (and contemporary scandals), such as:
marriage, divorce, bigamy; the law, crime and deception; secrecy and surveillance; insanity and deformity; the position of women in society
use of various scientific discourses:
phrenology and physiognomy; physiology and the senses; mental sciences; sexology; criminology
Scientific romances
mainly, early works of H. G. Wells (1890s to 1910s):
The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901)
but also, Jules Verne (1850s to 1900s):
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864), From Earth to the Moon (1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870), Around the Moon (1870s), The Mysterious Island (1875)
Wells’s work clearly imbricated with scientific discourse, technology and society:
evolution and retrogression; eugenics and collectivism; futurity and dystopia; duties and responsibilities of science and scientists
Science and
genre writing

After <Frankenstein>, the figure of the scientist in fiction has, almost as a rule, to be that of an aspiring young medical student who dabbles in galvanism, and whose long hours in the seclusion of the laboratory engender or reinforce a misanthropic, or at best, insensitive, disregard for his social bonds and duties.
Chris Baldick, <In Frankenstein’s Shadow> (Oxford, 1987), 142
1810s–1840s: influence of German materialism:
‘the unstable physiology and temporality of the physical body’
Jonathan Crary, <Techniques of the Observer> (London, 1988), 70
Vital Sciences
1790s: Luigi Galvani’s electrical experiments
1810s: ‘spark of life’ debate John Abernethy, William Lawrence [Frankenstein]
Xavier Bichat (1801): tissue as basis of life; Rudolf Virchow (1858): life as a networked array of cells

role of individual within society

gothic focus on fragmentation of individual, of uncertain relationship between parts and whole
sensation fiction: social fragmentation (divorce, bigamy, murder, insanity)
Investigation is more and more directed towards the separated details of the phenomena previously studied as events: the observed facts are resolved into their component factors, complex wholes into their simpler elements, the organism into organs and tissues. […] Hypothesis had free way, and a sort of fetichistic [sic] deification of the cell invested it with miraculous powers.
GH Lewes, <The Physical Basis of Mind> (1877) in <Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century>, ed. by Laura Otis (Oxford, 2002), 161–2
Geological time
World far older than Biblical dating of 4004 BC by James Ussher (Archbishop of Armagh)
Lyell’s theory of ‘uniformitarianism’: gradual change over aeons still occurring
Contrast between two timeframes: human and geological

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, <The Coming Race> (1871)
H. G. Wells, <The Time Machine> (1895)
H. P. Lovecraft (early c20)
Many appearances, which for a long time were regarded as indicating mysterious and extraordinary agency, are finally recognized as the necessary result of the laws now governing the world; and the discovery of this unlocked for conformity has induced some geologists to infer that there has never been any interruption to the same uniform order of physical events.
Charles Lyell, <Principles of Geology> (1830–3), in <Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century>, ed. Laura Otis (Oxford, 2002), 246
Evolutionary theory
Charles Darwin (Origin of Species, 1859; Descent of Man, 1871)
Complex debates within evolutionary circles:
Ernst Haeckl, <The Evolution of Man> (1870): first principle of ontogeny = increasing complexification of organisms over time (excelsior view)
Cf. Ray Lankester, <Degeneration: A Chapter on Darwinism> (1880): organisms can degenerate as well, based on external conditions
individualism (Spencer) v collectivism (Huxley)
What is an individual? […] The distinction between individual in its biological sense, and individual in its more general sense, must consist in the manifestation of Life, properly so called. Life we have seen to be, ‘the definite combination of heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and successive, in correspondence with external co-existences and sequences.’ Hence, a biological individual is any concrete whole having a structure which enables it, when placed in appropriate conditions, to continually adjust its internal relations to external relations, so as to maintain the equilibrium of its functions.
Herbert Spencer, <Principles of Biology> (1864–7) in <Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century>, ed. by Laura Otis (Oxford, 2002), 289
Social progress means a checking of the cosmic progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the survival of those who happen to be the fittest […] but of those who are ethically the best. […] Let us understand, once and for all, that the ethical progress of society depends, not on irritating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combatting it.
TH Huxley, ‘Evolution and Ethics’ (1893), in <Collected Essays>, 9 vols (London, 1903), ix, 81–3
But with this change in condition comes inevitably adaptations to the change. What, unless biological science is a mass of errors, is the cause of human intelligence and vigour? Hardship and freedom: conditions under which the active, strong, and subtle survive and the weaker go to the wall; conditions that put a premium upon the loyal alliance of capable men, upon self-restraint, patience, and decision. And the institution of the family, and the emotions that arise therein, the fierce jealousy, the tenderness for offspring, parental self-devotion, all found their justification and support in the imminent dangers of the young. Now, where are these imminent dangers? There is a sentiment arising, and it will grow, against connubial jealousy, against fierce maternity, against passion of all sorts; unnecessary things now, and things that make us uncomfortable, savage survivals, discords in a refined and pleasant life.
HG Wells, <The Time Machine> (1885), ch. 4
The long roll of palaeontology is half filled with the records of extermination; whole orders, families, groups and classes have passed away and left no mark and no tradition upon the living fauna of the world.
HG Wells, (‘On Extinction’, <Chamber’s Journal>, 10 (Sept 1893), 123–4
Humanity as biological rather than intellectual => animal species:
Wilkie Collins, <Heart and Science> (1883); HG Wells, <Island of Doctor Moreau> (1896); WC Morrow, ‘The Monster-Maker’ (1897); Edith Nesbit, ‘The Five Senses’ (1909)
Criminology
Cesare Lombroso
<The Criminal Man> (1876)
Sociology
Sexology
Max Nordau
<Degeneration> (1892)
Richard Krafft-Ebing
<Psychopathia Sexualis> (1886)
Disease and pathology
Pamela Gilbert, <Disease, Desire and the Body in Women’s Popular Novels> (1997)
Laurie Garrison, <Science, Sexuality and Sensation Novels: Pleasures of the Senses> (2010)
Gothic and
psychoanalysis

After <Frankenstein>, the figure of the scientist in fiction has, almost as a rule, to be that of an aspiring young medical student who dabbles in galvanism, and whose long hours in the seclusion of the laboratory engender or reinforce a misanthropic, or at best, insensitive, disregard for his social bonds and duties.
Chris Baldick, <In Frankenstein’s Shadow> (Oxford, 1987), 142
C19 mental sciences mainly physiological
But rise in later c19 with ‘alienist’ (e.g. Henry Maudsley, 1860s–1910s): Dr Seward in <Dracula>
Can subjectivity of personal experience be objectively classified?

Use of narrative by mental-health practitioners (e.g. Maudsley, Krafft-Ebing, Freud)
Similar subjectivity = hallmark of gothic writing
Gothic as c19 precursor to c20 psychoanalysis?
Ernst Jentsch (1906) and Sigmund Freud (1919) use ETA Hoffmann’s ‘The Sandman’ (1816) as a case study for their work on the Uncanny
It is only rarely that a psycho-analyst feels impelled to investigate the subject of aesthetics, even when aesthetics is understood to mean not merely the theory of beauty but the theory of the qualities of feeling. He works in other strata of mental life and has little to do with the subdued emotional impulses which, inhibited in their aims and dependent on a host of concurrent factors, usually furnish the material for the study of aesthetics. But it does occasionally happen that he has to interest himself in some particular province of that subject; and this province usually proves to be a rather remote one, and one which has been neglected in the specialist literature of aesthetics.
Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’ (1919)
The Uncanny is especially relevant to the Gothic novel because it is not only a theory of the sublime but also, simultaneously, a theory of terror. […] For Freud, the uncanny derives its terror not from something external, alien, or unknown but—on the contrary—from something strangely familiar which defeats our efforts to separate ourselves from it. […] Repetition is the essential structure of the uncanny. Borrowing Freud’s language, we might describe Gothic sublimity as drawing its deepest terrors from a return of the repressed.
David Morris, ‘Gothic Sublimity’, <New Literary History>, 16 (1985), 306–7
Terry Castle and Robert Miles:
gothic and psychoanalysis = both products of the
anxieties of modernity and rationalism
Conclusion
After <Frankenstein>, the figure of the scientist in fiction has, almost as a rule, to be that of an aspiring young medical student who dabbles in galvanism, and whose long hours in the seclusion of the laboratory engender or reinforce a misanthropic, or at best, insensitive, disregard for his social bonds and duties.
Chris Baldick, <In Frankenstein’s Shadow> (Oxford, 1987), 142
Material on handout taken from c19 science and genre writing, offering a juxtaposition of similarities and contrasts

The material covers four (of many) aspects:
the discourse of science
the figure of the scientist
the mental sciences and psychoanalysis
evolution and degeneration
Examples of Lombroso’s ‘criminal types’
Full transcript