In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

82Victorian Review Discussion of Thackeray's mothers is also illuminating. McKnight suggests that his mother characters are the strangest mothers in Victorian fiction being at the same time ideal angels and destructive monsters. She also points to the incestuous representations of his mother characters. George Eliot's novels are astutely shown to be warnings against motherhood with many of her heroines managing to avoid becoming mothers. McKnight's study of suffering mothers is a welcome addition to the ranks of works discussing Victorian womanhood. It is well-considered and effectively written. It is of interest in providing a useful thematic study and will have particular appeal to readers interested in psychoanalytical approaches. Those preferring a more historicist approach may feel a little more historical contextualization or complexity desirable but will still find much that is stimulating here. ADRIENNE E. GAVIN Canterbury Christ Church College Barbara T. Gates and Ann B. Shteir, editors. Natural Eloquence: Women Reinscribe Science. Science and Literature Series, edited by George Levine. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1997. xiii + 280. The current trend in literary studies toward recuperation is usually as much about the rediscovery and appreciation of forgotten people as it is about giving new life to old or lost texts. Materialist analyses of the social and historical context of works, and whole genres, often rely heavily on biographical investigations of figures, popular but underestimated in their own day, and almost completely unknown in ours. Such is the case with most of the women science writers considered in Natural Eloquence: Women Reinscribe Science. This collection of essays, edited by Barbara T. Gates and Ann B. Shteir, examines the role of women popularizers in the history of science with a view, in most cases, of bringing new respect to the contributions these women have made to the public's understanding of, and involvement in, scientific activities. In their introduction, Gates and Shteir give a brief overview of the early history of women science writers as "mediators of knowledge" (3); the rest of the essays in the collection focus this historical consideration on the specific lives and works of individual women writing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many of this volume's contributors also offer direct and indirect critiques of the Reviews83 masculinist bias of mainstream scientific culture, which has tended to guard its elite status by discrediting those who would open science up to the public not only for study, but also for criticism and protest. According to Gates and Shteir, scientific discoveries made by university-educated men were studied, synthesized, and subsequently "reinscribed" in a vernacular form by self-educated women from the end of the seventeenth century onwards (3). Excluded from institutionalized research opportunities by their irregular education — an issue of gender — many women still made a niche for themselves just within the borders of science, by combining masculine knowledge with feminine domesticity: up until the twentieth century, much of the science writing produced by these women was designed for use in the home, to help parents (especially mothers) give their children (especially sons) a good head start on their education. Popular science texts were written in the "familiar format" of the letter, dialogue or conversation, often featuring a wise mother or governess instructing curious but tractable children in the mysteries of the natural world. Such narratives not only taught children about science in God's creation through overt moral and religious explanations; they also introduced a wide range of readers to the idea of women as scientific experts: "the maternal science teacher . . . served as a figure of power and expertise for her children, and the Scientific Mother was also an exemplar of female knowledge and intellectual authority for adult readers" (9). The popularization of scientific knowledge was indeed popular, contributing to the increased value of science in the public school curriculum, particularly for boys. But as schools offered more sophisticated instruction to their students, they required more sophisticated instructors, gradually rendering obsolete the domestic, familiar forms of popular science writing (not to mention the figure of the "Scientific Mother"). Women writers were now forced to compete with men for an adult audience, and male writers and reviewers often displayed a tendency to discount...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 82-85
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.