Wonder and Science

Wonder and Science

by Mary Baine Campbell
     
 
During the early modern period, western Europe was transformed by the proliferation of new worlds—geographic worlds found in the voyages of discovery and conceptual and celestial worlds opened by natural philosophy, or science. The response to incredible overseas encounters and to the profound technological, religious, economic, and intellectual changes occurring

Overview

During the early modern period, western Europe was transformed by the proliferation of new worlds—geographic worlds found in the voyages of discovery and conceptual and celestial worlds opened by natural philosophy, or science. The response to incredible overseas encounters and to the profound technological, religious, economic, and intellectual changes occurring in Europe was one of nearly overwhelming wonder, expressed in a rich variety of texts. In the need to manage this wonder, to harness this imaginative overabundance, Mary Baine Campbell finds both the sensational beauty of early scientific works and the beginnings of the divergence of the sciences—particularly geography, astronomy, and anthropology—from the writing of fiction.Campbell's learned and brilliantly perceptive new book analyzes a cross section of texts in which worlds were made and unmade; these texts include cosmographies, colonial reports, works of natural philosophy and natural history, fantastic voyages, exotic fictions, and confessions. Among the authors she discusses are André Thevet, Thomas Hariot, Francis Bacon, Galileo, Margaret Cavendish, and Aphra Behn. Campbell's emphasis is on developments in England and France, but she considers works in languages other than English or French which were well known in the polyglot book culture of the time. With over thirty well-chosen illustrations, Wonder and Science enhances our understanding of the culture of early modern Europe, the history of science, and the development of literary forms, including the novel and ethnography.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is . . . the most sophisticated and engaging study of the importance of genre development to historians of science and literature. . . Supremely lucid . . . provocative and insightful. . . . This work is of immeasurable value to all students of early modern culture."—Eileen Reeves, Renaissance Quarterly

"Campbell's book offers a rich sampling of the epistemological plethora of this age. She surveys narratives of "other worlds," both factual and fictional, written in English or French in the period from 1550 to 1700. Her readings of the texts are subtle and morally engaged, her own prose in consistently delightful, and the volume is attractively illustrated."—Jan Golinski, Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, 2003

"Campbell's book Wonder and Science . . . is precisely the kind of book that continues to provoke thought long after you have closed the cover. . . . I have nothing but praise for Campbell's beautifully produced and written book. . . . Like a modern-day Cavendish, Campbell's language joins together the "two worlds" of scientific study with a rapturous and pleasure-ridden prose to produce a book, Wonder and Science where style reflects content. This book has been exhilarating to read; it will, in my opinion, make a genuine difference to the history of scientific culture as we understand it."—Claire Jowitt, Studies in Travel Writing, 2003

"Wonder and Science analyzes colonial reports, works of natural history and travel, and popular writings to gather details on how concepts and worlds were challenged and remade. Chapters cover some great authors and thinkers in England and France: individuals who made their marks on a changed world."—Reviewer's Bookwatch, February 2001

"Wonder and Science is filled with a love for and a display of cornucopian texts: the wondrous multiplicity of other cultures, natural phenomena, language, and metaphor clearly thrills Campbell, and she in turn thrills us."—Peter Platt, Bryn Mawr Review, Fall 2001

"Wonder and Science is a tremendously learned account of the pleasurable yet uneasy coupling of fictional and scientific discourse in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. The book traces the evolution, and the interrogations, of the epistemological category of "wonder" in a dazzling array of scientific and quasi-scientific texts, both English and Continental. . . . Wonder and Science masterfully illustrates this disciplinary flux—and reflux—of the early modern era, and the book's greatest strengths lie in its sustained focus on the formal and rhetorical synthesis of scientific and nonscientific texts during the period."—Jessica Wolfe, Journal of Modern History, June 2002

"Mary Baine Campbell offers us a remarkable tour of writing culture and the cultures of knowledge in the early modern period. By juxtaposing works that we have traditionally identified with distinctive forms of knowledge—literature, science, and anthropology—Campbell persuasively argues that we need to read and understand these texts in their predisciplinary formulation. The result is a fascinating and enjoyable exposition of the science of literature and the literature of science."—Paula Findlen, Stanford University (History)

"In Mary Baine Campbell's dazzling account, wonder is not only 'broken knowledge' (in Bacon's phrase), or the mystified residue of an emergent scientific method, but a sensational plenitude, upwelling in all the historical junctures of discipline, domination, pleasure, and narration in early modern Europe. At both molecular and global levels, Campbell profoundly resituates the history of the 'Two Cultures' as she demonstrates the flows and magnetisms they continue to share and exchange. Alive with wit and delight, polymathic as it is original, and visibly impelled by a historical and ethical exactitude that entirely disallows the pedantic or moralistic, Wonder and Science is itself a wonder."—Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, author of A Dialogue on Love

"In this remarkable and wide-ranging study, Mary Baine Campbell explores the early modern literature of worldmaking, as the seedbed not only of a modern notion of culture, but also of the modern genres of prose fiction and scientific report. Her lucid, lyrical account of early ethnographic, travel, and utopian writing maps the wonder-filled territory on the border between observation and invention that is of equal concern to literary scholars, cultural historians, and historians of science."—Katherine Park, Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of the History of Science and Women's Studies, Harvard University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801489181
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
03/15/2004
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Baine Campbell is Professor of English at Brandeis University. She is the author of The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 400–1600, also from Cornell, in addition to two books of poetry.

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