Subjugated scientific knowledges : detecting the Victorian female scientist

Wargen, J. 2013. Subjugated scientific knowledges : detecting the Victorian female scientist. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages

TitleSubjugated scientific knowledges : detecting the Victorian female scientist
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsWargen, J.

This thesis endeavours to examine the presence and absence of female scientists

in Victorian fiction by exploring the female experience of science in fiction and in

reality. The impact of culture, society and traditional notions of female ‘knowing’

are explored. Real-life women scientists’ work is considered in addition to fictional

creations. Firstly, the research explores women such as Jane Marcet’s

contribution to popular science writing and the dissemination of scientific

knowledge to a predominantly female readership. Secondly, the steps towards

women scientists becoming experts in their chosen fields of science are

scrutinised. From the limited fictional portrayals of female scientists themes such

as the challenges of being an expert scientist, and the implications scientific

learning has for love, self-knowledge and on women’s place in society are found.

Novels examined include Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science: A Story of the

Present Time, Harriet Stark’s The Bacillus of Beauty and H.G. Wells’s Ann

Veronica. Shared experiences and themes also emerge in female detective

fiction, where texts such as C.L. Pirkis’s The Experiences of Loveday Brooke,

Lady Detective, highlight how the female detective draws upon traditional female

knowledge alongside scientific method and utilises them in the field of crime. Both the female scientist and the female detective illuminate how subjugation to the

periphery creates new arenas in which women encounter science.

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