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Title: Narrative Energy: Physics and the Scientific Real in Victorian Literature
Authors: Ashe, Nathan
Advisors: Nord, Deborah
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: History of Physics
Literature and Religion
Literature and Science
Subjects: Literature
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Realism in Victorian novels is often understood in relation to the increasingly professionalizeddisciplines of science—especially biology—which achieved a near monopoly on defining reality by the end of the period. In this narrative, novels that depart from the models of naturalistic science may be allegorical, speculative, or Romantic, among other options, but are not realistic. Narrative Energy offers a revision of this account, arguing that the diversity of theories, practices, and philosophies within nineteenth-century science necessitate a broader understanding of the relationship between science and the real in Victorian literature. In particular, I examine the influence of physics, which offered a vision of reality that integrated theological and secular approaches to knowledge-making. This dissertation therefore asks, how were changing definitions of the scientific real received in and developed by novels? It suggests that two central concepts in nineteenth-century physics, energy and ether, provided a discourse through which to unite exceptionality and realism, inspiring new modes of investigation, allowing for the formation of uncanny connections between disparate characters, and modelling novel ways of reading the natural world. Each chapter examines a novel or set of novels—The Woman in White, Daniel Deronda, King Solomon’s Mines, and She—that are not neatly categorized as realistic, tracing their engagement with energy and ether to explore their construction of a real that has since become unfamiliar to modern readers.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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