Cuvier in context: literature and science in the long nineteenth century

Keeling, Charles Paul (2017) Cuvier in context: literature and science in the long nineteenth century. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This study investigates the role and significance of Cuvier’s science, its knowledge and practice, in
British science and literature in the first half of the nineteenth century. It asks what the current
account of science or grand science narrative is, and how voicing Cuvier changes that account. The
field of literature and science studies has seen healthy debate between literary critics and historians
of science representing a combination of differing critical approaches. This study asks whether we
can continue work to synthesise historicist and formalist approaches, and suggests using a third
narrative based approach to achieve a full complement of methodological tools. This in turn should
provide more nuanced critical readings. In certain novels it has allowed me to shift the focus on
literature and science enquiry to different decades. This study looks for “science stories” from
scientific discourses in The Last Man, The Mill on the Floss and Bleak House.
I have demonstrated the centrality of Cuvier to British science in the first half of the
nineteenth century and that science’s role as a model for the natural and human world, as well as
informing the unstable systems of narrative characteristic of the novel genre and form. Cuvier’s
Essay initiated a lasting period of scientific centrality and legitimacy in British science and
representation in British novels. His law of correlations applied to geology made his science both an
important narrative and analogous to the empirical truth-seeking mode of the novel. The
paleontological process becomes both a model for organic unity in Victorian fiction and a mode of
narrative production. Cuvier’s science and its discourse both produce and are reproduced in
nineteenth century novels.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR4000 19th century, 1770/1800-1890/1900
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2017 14:44
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37

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