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1 - Objectivity and Observation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2021

Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

Chapter 1: This chapter starts by tracing the development of objectivity in both science and theatre through classical and early modern theatre, in which it was a fairly unimportant epistemic virtue, into the late eighteenth century where objectivity begins to emerge through the idealizations of ‘Truth-to-Nature’ in biology and in literary and theatrical Romanticism. Although some conceptions of scientific objectivity and observation treat these as virtuous by the extent to which they rise above personal or historical bias, the practice and theory of both objectivity and observation have changed through history. Drawing on the work of Lorraine Daston and others, the chapter goes on to show that the emergence of modern (‘mechanical’) objectivity, and a new relationship with observation, mark both nineteenth-century science and Naturalist theatre. Making the comparison explains some of the antitheatrical claims of Naturalist authors and the contradictions of Naturalist practice. As nineteenth-century ‘objectivity’ is superseded, so the theatrical figuration of science gravitates towards areas of ambiguity, chaos, and indeterminacy.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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References

Suggested Reading

Axtell, GuyObjectivity. Cambridge, 2016.Google Scholar
Bernard, ClaudeAn Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, trans. Greene, Henry Copley. New York, 1957.Google Scholar
Crary, JonathanTechniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, MA, 1990.Google Scholar
Daston, Lorraine, and Galison, PeterObjectivity2nd ed. New York, 2010.Google Scholar
Daston, Lorraine, and Lunbeck, Elizabeth, eds. Histories of Scientific Observation. Chicago, 2011.Google Scholar
Ekström, Anders. ‘Seeing from Above: A Particular History of the General Observer’. Nineteenth-Century Contexts 31 (September 2009): 185207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gaukroger, StephenObjectivity: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nagel, ThomasThe View from Nowhere. Oxford, 1986.Google Scholar
Peacock, JohnThe Stage Designs of Inigo Jones: The European Context. Cambridge, 1995.Google Scholar
Spiller, Elizabeth. ‘Shakespeare and the Making of Early Modern Science: Resituating Prospero's Art’. South Central Review 26 (Summer 2009): 2441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Turner, Henry S. The English Renaissance Stage: Geometry, Poetics, and the Practical Spatial Arts 1580–1630. Oxford, 2006.Google Scholar
Zola, ÉmileLe Roman Experimental. In Oeuvres Complètes: Tome 9 Nana 1880, eds. Mitterand, Henri and Pierre-Gnassounou, Chantal. Paris, 2004, 315507.Google Scholar

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