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Introduction: Weird Science The title of this special issue is intentionally provocative. The conflation ofweird and science both assumes a hierarchy of scientific credibility and challenges that hierarchy within the discourses of nineteenth-century scientific culture. There is an unsignified question markat tiie end ofthe phrase. Such aspare and direct question inevitably leads to many other questions: of marginalization and centrality, of dominance and subordination, and of orthodoxy and dissidence. Do the sciences discussed in the present essays — mesmerism, spiritualism, psychical phenomena, psychological memory, evolutionary biology, heredity—fall into tiiese binarilyopposedcategories? Oris tiie relationship between whatwe mayin contemporary culture call the "weird" sciences and the mainstream sciences more fluid and complex? And finally, how do critics working in this area of cultural criticism attempt to signify what has been, as I have hinted at, an unsignified yet problematic assumption concerning the categorization and characterization ofsuch a scientific milieu? Originating from a conference held at University College Worcester in 1999, five of the six essays that follow this introduction attempt to engage with the literary representations ofscience while the sixth and concluding essay negotiates a cultural reading of important psychological writers and their work. The ultimate success and undoubted importance of these essays are founded on their subtle readings ofscientificandliteraryculture, bolsteredbyextensivehistorical research and a valuable interrogation of how to read that historical material. Louise Henson discusses Dickens's fictional prose and social criticism through debates concernedwith the chemical andsupernatural qualities of the dead. The complex interaction between chemistry, superstition, and the physical and social worlds of Dickens's writing highlights a challenge to both scientific and cultural hierarchies which looks toward the unsettling period of early modernity more often associatedwitiithefindesiècle. ElisabethWadge's readingofBramStoker's DracuL· equally combats the Victorian view of science as a cohesive body ofknowledge by focusing on the primacy ofpsychical research in Victorian Review (2000) M. Willis the scientific investigations ofthe 1880s and 1890s. Her blurringofthe boundaries between orthodox and unorthodox sciences calls into question the illegitimizing of certain scientific fields while also foregrounding the subversive potential of less mainstream science. Catherine Wynne widens the focus to Stoker's other works and his position as afigure concernedwitiimarginalization tiirough nationality, religion, andtiieoccult. Concentratingonmesmerismandsecondsight, she sees Stoker's project as a direct challenge to medical tradition and invokes his Irishness to substantiate an altogether broader resistance to colonial domination and national suppression. Lyssa Randolph arrives at a similar questioning ofdominance from a very different angle. Her essay on Sarah Grand and evolutionary debates concerns itselfwitii the cultural and national progress oftiie NewWoman through writings on childhoodpsychologyand the concept ofgenius. Sheviews tiie feminist project not as one tiiat challenges the subjects oforthodox science but that reworks that orthodoxy by altering its values and outcomes and thereby resists categorization from inside the dominant modes. Jed Mayer's essay on Thomas Hardy also tackles evolutionary biology, but on this occasion tiirough a study of the complex theories ofheredity and organic memory. In discussing cultural notions of class and inheritance, he reveals tiiat establishment science was not monolithic but a network of orthodoxies often in conflict. In stressing this, the essay also further elucidates the movement in the final decade of the nineteenthcenturytowardtiiefragmentationofmodernity. Finally,Jenny Bourne Taylor closes tiiis special issue with an essay on the importance ofmemory in defining psychic and social identity through the work of three nineteenth-century writers on psychology. Her thesis argues that the work of these writers was both central and marginal, and both Victorian and modern. In suggesting these oppositions, this final essay encapsulates the central qualities of those that have preceded it. Significantly, Taylor also begins by asking which theoretical approach mightbeappropriateforstudies suchasherswhenviewingtiie dynamics of orthodox and heterodox sciences. It is with a discussion of such theoretical standpoints that I wish to conclude this introduction. volume 26 number 1 Introduction How do we theorize the combination of literature and "weird" science?As soon as this question is posed there are far more problems in sight tiian tiiere are solutions. Firstly, what common ground can be found that allows for an interdisciplinarity that does not privilege one over the other? Do the philosophies of science and the theoretical schools of literature provide a framework that interrogates...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 1-5
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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