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LITERARY HISTORIES OF THE NATURAL HISTORICAL BOOK

  • Jonathan V. Farina (a1)

Extract

Inspired in part by the coincident bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of The Origin of Species in 2009, scholars have been hard at work these last ten years writing substantial histories of nineteenth-century natural history and geology. These histories include exceptional books by scholars trained primarily in literary studies: Cannon Schmitt's Darwin and the Memory of the Human (2009); Daniel Brown's The Poetry of Victorian Scientists (2013); and Gowan Dawson's Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability (2007). With a few notable exceptions, however, the books I was invited to review here are written mostly by historians of science. And yet they are no less literary for that. All are marked by a tacit, pragmatic adoption of actor-network theory; by the extraordinary resources of the Darwin Correspondence Project and online databases of British periodicals; and often, too, by glossy illustrations. Further, nearly all of these histories share a methodological investment in what we call the history of the book, including all the economics of publishing (formats, sizes, fonts, prices, print runs, reviews, sales, generic conventions) and a political and heuristic stake in popularization and the general reading public. While Darwin (and Lyell, Herschel, Hooker, Huxley, and Spencer) remain at the center of the discussion, the empirically-minded history-of-the-book approach and investment in everyday readers reconstructs and legitimates a robust popular science that was engaged with, but not subordinate to, and often more liberal than the elite science of the X Club, the Royal Society, and other exclusive institutions. With the help of museums, lectures, tour guides, and other natural scientific literature, everyday readers produced their own knowledge of evolution, stratigraphy, speciation, animal emotion, and the sex life of plants.

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Beer, Gillian. Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009.
Brown, Daniel. The Poetry of Victorian Scientists: Style, Science and Nonsense. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013.
Buckland, Adelene. Novel Science: Fiction and the Invention of Nineteenth-Century Geology. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2013.
Conlin, Jonathan. Evolution and the Victorians: Science, Culture and Politics in Darwin's Britain. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
Costa, James T.Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2014.
Dawson, Gowan. Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007.
Desmond, Adrian. The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989.
Endersby, Jim. Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008.
Fyfe, Aileen, and Lightman, Bernard V., eds. Science in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century Sites and Experiences. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007.
Levine, George. Darwin and the Novelists: Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction. Chicago: U of Chicago Ps, 1988.
Levine, George. Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-Enchantment of the World. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2006.
Levine, George. Darwin the Writer. New York: Oxford UP, 2011.
Lightman, Bernard V.Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007.
Lightman, Bernard V., and Zon, Bennett, eds. Evolution and Victorian Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2014.
O'Connor, Ralph. The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802–1856. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007.
Poovey, Mary. A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998.
Richards, Robert J.Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987.
Richards, Robert J.. The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2002.
Richards, Robert J.. The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008.
Rudwick, Martin J. S.Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2005.
Rudwick, Martin J. S.. Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008.
Schmitt, Cannon. Darwin and the Memory of the Human: Evolution, Savages, and South America. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009.
Secord, James A.Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000.
Secord, James A.. Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age. New York: Oxford UP, 2014.
Smith, Jonathan. Fact and Feeling: Baconian Science and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Wisconsin: U of Wisconsin P, 1994.
Smith, Tiffany Watt. On Flinching: Theatricality and Scientific Looking from Darwin to Shell Shock. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014.
Topham, Jonathan. “Scientific Publishing and the Reading of Science in Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Historiographical Survey and Guide to Sources.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 31 (2000): 559612.

LITERARY HISTORIES OF THE NATURAL HISTORICAL BOOK

  • Jonathan V. Farina (a1)

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