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Title: The missing link, Samuel Butler and the theory of evolution : design, physiology and psychology of the unconscious in Victorian Britain
Author: Turbil , Cristiano
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis argues that Samuel Butler's evolutionary work represented one of the most eccentric and enlightening alternatives to 'natural selection'. In his scientific research, the English writer used 'memory' as a justification of the process of heredity. This represented, at the turn of the twentieth-century, a shift from the mechanical approach to natural selection to an idea of evolution based on a psychophysiological process. First, my work addresses the methodological difficulties that occur in placing Butler's work within the late Victorian debate. Neither the Victorians themselves, nor subsequent scholars, have known what to make of Butler, most usually attempting to place him in the category of literature whilst ignoring the substance of his scientific work. Looking at the reception of Butler's ideas in England and Europe, and critically discussing the problem of Butler's identity in the context of contemporary scholarship, I create a new picture of Butler as a Victorian amateur 'scientist'. Second, this research discusses Butler's popularisation of science, looking at his use of language, style and form in his fictional and non-fictional works. It also discusses Butler's work of translation and his popularisation of European scientific hypotheses within the British 'marketplace' of science. Third and finally, this work explores Butler's hypothesis of unconscious memory in relation to similar cases in Europe. Looking at the French and German psychophysiological debate, it places Butler's evolutionary work in a pan-European context. Overall, this thesis attempts to create a three-dimensional intellectual image of Butler as writer and participant in science, and in doing so finds that Butler is a problem case who tests the edges of scholarship in history and literature of nineteenth-century science.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available