Date of Award

4-29-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Christopher Orchard, D.Phil.

Second Advisor

Christopher Kuipers, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael T. Williamson, Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation investigates how the Victorian scientific revolution and its concepts of evolution are represented in select fiction of the period: Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" (1818), H. G. Wells' "The Time Machine" (1895), "The Island of Dr Moreau" (1896), "The Invisible Man" (1897), "The War of the Worlds" (1898), Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" (1886) and others. Starting from the theological and cultural controversies arising from the publication of Darwin's Origin of the Species, and the place of Darwin studies in the literary discourse of critics such as Beer, Carroll and Levine, the fiction represented here signifies a more broad reaching study that seeks to specifically identify the more concrete examples of discourse related directly to the science of evolution. This discourse of evolution envisaged human beings and animals according to a Darwinian scale of being, in which humans could descend to the ape-like creature in "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" while animals could evolve into the kind of human beings described in "The Island of Dr Moreau". The mobility of the scale though created unease through its challenge to traditional metaphysical hierarchies and the implied de-centering of an anthropocentric model. Therefore, I shall look into how this theory and the consequent unease implicitly or explicitly influenced the works of Victorian writers and how the theory caused another site of unease, the clash between theologian naturalists and conservatives who would protect the Victorian tradition, culture and religion, and modern scientists who gave discomfort to those belonging to the Victorian conventions through their articulation of unfamiliar scientific inventions and theories. The degeneration theory also could be applied to the idea that those human beings would be likely to be degenerated because of the development of science and the change of environment. If there was unease concerning ascent and descent, there was also disquiet about other ideas about species indistinction, specifically the existence of the hybrid of human and animal, and inanimate things that are animated by science's interference with them. The presence of these creatures was accelerated by the revolutionary and subversive ideas that the scientists, often called `mad scientists,' generated in their labs. Their inventive and innovative experiments were enough to disturb Victorian tradition and culture. Such work in the labs also created an anxiety about the ecological and bioethical roles of the sciences and scientists. Using the ecological and bioethical discourses of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I will discuss how the distinct lack of concern expressed by characters in Victorian fiction about experimentation of living organisms anticipates the challenges future scientists will likely face in the midst of the complexity of ecological, evolutionary, and bioethical realities.

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