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Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth Century Literature [Hardcover]

Jonathan Taylor

RRP: 49.95
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Book Description

1 Sep 2007
This book takes as its starting point Pierre-Simon Laplace's much-cited dream in 1812 of 'a vast intelligence' which can 'embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atom' and for which the future and the past are equally calculable. Laplace sets out THE echt-Enlightenment ideal of scientific omniscience and the classic statement of a deterministic universe. The author investigates some of the ways in which Laplacian and, indeed, Newtonian models of observation and the universe are at once assimilated and complicated by Romantic and Victorian writers such as Carlyle, Burke, Abbott, Poe and Wordsworth. In particular, it aims to retrace some of the ways in which LaplacianNewtonian models of scientific 'intelligence' come to inform nineteenth-century writers' views of themselves and their own modes of observation. The author also explains how some of these literary reimaginings look forward to more modern conceptions of science in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, such as Chaos Theory and Einsteinian Cosmology. Oddly enough, contemporary science would seem to realise Carlyle's vision of a 'Natural-Supernaturalism', fusing Laplace's mechanical vision with Romanticism. This book covers a vast array of topics, including Philosophy, Wagner's music and music in general, Jungian analysis, and ends with the 'omniscient' narrator in Charles Dickens's 'The Old Curiosity Shop', as an example of what came to be the dominant mode of narration in later Victorian fiction.

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More About the Author

Jonathan Taylor is a novelist, memoirist, short-story writer, poet, critic and lecturer. He is author of the novel Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), and the memoir Take Me Home: Parkinson's, My Father, Myself (Granta, 2007). He is editor of the anthology Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (Salt, 2012). His poetry collection, provisionally entitled Musicolepsy, will be published by Shoestring Press in early 2013. His collection of short stories, Kontakte and Other Stories, will be published by Roman Books in late 2013.

Jonathan is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University. He is co-founder and co-director of arts organisation and small publisher Crystal Clear Creators. He is General Editor of Hearing Voices Magazine and the Crystal Pamphlets series. With Maria Taylor, he is co-editor of Fizzle & Sizzle (Crystal Clear Creators (CCC) Publishing, 2008).

Jonathan's academic books are Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003), and Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Sussex Academic, 2007). With Andrew Dix, he is co-editor of Figures of Heresy (Sussex Academic, 2005).

Born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, Jonathan now lives in Leicestershire, UK, with his wife the poet Maria Taylor, and their twin daughters.

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Review

"In "Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature", Jonathan Taylor demonstrates the ways in which various Romantic and Victorian writers absorbed and complicated the ideas of scientific omniscience. In particular, Taylor shows how Pierre-Simon Laplace's and Isaac Newton's sense of the universe allowed these writers to reimagine themselves and reshape their writing. He also sees a continuity between these ideas and modern scientific thought, especially the branch dealing with Chaos Theory." --"Studies in English Literature"

About the Author

Jonathan Taylor is Lecturer in English at Loughborough. He is the author of Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing, as well as of essays on Victorian literature. He is currently working on a book on the idea of chaos in nineteenth-century English culture.

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