Useful Knowledge: The Victorians, Morality, and the March of Intellect

Overview

Nineteenth-century England witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of publications and institutions devoted to the creation and the dissemination of knowledge: encyclopedias, scientific periodicals, instruction manuals, scientific societies, children’s literature, mechanics’ institutes, museums of natural history, and lending libraries. In Useful Knowledge Alan Rauch presents a social, cultural, and literary history of this new knowledge industry and traces its relationships within nineteenth-century ...

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Useful Knowledge: The Victorians, Morality, and the March of Intellect

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Overview

Nineteenth-century England witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of publications and institutions devoted to the creation and the dissemination of knowledge: encyclopedias, scientific periodicals, instruction manuals, scientific societies, children’s literature, mechanics’ institutes, museums of natural history, and lending libraries. In Useful Knowledge Alan Rauch presents a social, cultural, and literary history of this new knowledge industry and traces its relationships within nineteenth-century literature, ending with its eventual confrontation with Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.
Rauch discusses both the influence and the ideology of knowledge in terms of how it affected nineteenth-century anxieties about moral responsibility and religious beliefs. Drawing on a wide array of literary, scientific, and popular works of the period, the book focusses on the growing importance of scientific knowledge and its impact on Victorian culture. From discussions of Jane Webb Loudon’s The Mummy! and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor, Charles Kingsley’s Alton Locke, and George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, Rauch paints a fascinating picture of nineteenth-century culture and addresses issues related to the proliferation of knowledge and the moral issues of this time period. Useful Knowledge touches on social and cultural anxieties that offer both historical and contemporary insights on our ongoing preoccupation with knowledge.
Useful Knowledge will appeal to readers interested in nineteenth century history, literature, culture, the mediation of knowledge, and the history of science.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Useful Knowledge can stand as a model of informed and scrupulous historicism. The breadth of Rauch’s acquaintance with subliterary and paraliterary texts is truly impressive as he clearly lays out what was at stake for nineteenth-century intellectuals and usefully relates their preoccupations with those that concern us now, as we experience another information revolution.”—Harriet Ritvo, author of The Platypus and the Mermaid, and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination 

“A welcome addition to humanistic analyses of science-in-culture. Rauch deftly blends science, history, and literature—novels, speculative fiction, encyclopedias—to explore cultural attitudes to the challenges of new knowledge during the Information Age of the early nineteenth century.”—Ann B. Shteir, York University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822326632
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 7/17/2001
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Rauch is Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Knowledge and the Novel 1
1 Food for Thought: The Dissemination of Knowledge in the Early Nineteenth Century 22
2 Science in the Popular Novel: Jane Webb Loudon's The Mummy! 60
3 The Monstrous Body of Knowledge: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 96
4 Lessons Learned in Class: Charlotte Bronte's The Professor 129
5 The Tailor Transformed: Charles Kingsley's Alton Locke 164
6 Destiny as an Unmapped River: George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss 190
Notes 205
Bibliography 249
Index 279
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