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Title: Intensive materialism : matter, minds and bodies in Victorian science and literature
Author: Golding, Samuel Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 5991 1810
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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In nineteenth-century Britain, Victorians began to make strange new discoveries about matter. As it was cracked open and broken into smaller pieces, scientists found a world previously hidden from view: a world populated by interconnected ‘fields’, atomic vortices, fluctuating energy and organic morphogenesis. The more these bizarre phenomena were scrutinised, the more they resisted quantification. Saddled with explanatory paradigms unable to describe this new ‘intensive’ realm, scientists and writers delved deep into the imagination, experimented with their bodies and pushed language to its conceptual limits. Peering beyond sense and logic, they realised that neat distinctions between mind and matter, order and chaos, the reasonable and the absurd, were no longer viable. This world of recalcitrant matter and energy could not simply be uncovered—it had to be made too. As matter, minds and bodies intermeshed in dynamic, sometimes frightening ways, the very foundations of thought began to shift. This thesis focuses on a number of literary and scientific texts that responded to and participated in the creation of this nineteenth-century turn to intensive materialism. Reading texts by authors and scientists such as John Tyndall, Robert Browning, Henry James, P. G. Tait, Frederic Harrison and James Clerk Maxwell, it argues that writing began to function autonomously and elusively. Sometimes it generated unexpected information in excess of its constituent terms; other times it exposed unresolvable ontological tensions. Offering a new way to think about materialism, this thesis considers bodily, mental and literary thought as partially morphogenetic and nonhuman. By analysing texts and their wider cultural reception, it suggests that we can trace the interrelated turns that created Victorian Britain’s intensive worldview.
Supervisor: Pettitt, Clare Jane ; Turner, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available