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Writing the scientific self: Samuel Butler and Charles Hoy Fort

Sleigh, Charlotte (2015) Writing the scientific self: Samuel Butler and Charles Hoy Fort. Journal of Literature and Science, 8 (2). ISSN 1754-646X. (doi:10.12929/jls.08.2.02) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
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Abstract

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) and Charles Fort (1874-1932) were both scientific outsiders of the turn of the twentieth century, critiquing orthodox science whilst attempting to participate in it. Both of them also wrote experimental and innovative autobiographies (1884 and c. 1899-1904 respectively), challenging in their narrative form. Their self-construction in relation to science, it is argued, was effected through these autobiographies. The texts are considered here on multiple levels: in their own right; intertextually with their authors’ other writings; and paratextually with their authors’ lives. This essay builds upon Sally Shuttleworth’s observation that the projects of autobiography and science, in Butler’s oeuvre, are both about ‘the difficulties of defining or maintaining … selfhood’, and extends it to Fort’s case. This selfhood, it is argued, was for both Butler and Fort articulated through the same scientific model: orthogenesis – the pre-ordained unfolding of evolutionary fate. Orthogenesis was for both men a way of accounting for the transformation of self into writer; whilst it was already-being a writer, in having produced an autobiography, that enabled the leap-frogging of orthogenetic inheritance – both blood and money – into a new selfhood. As such, the autobiographies of Butler and Fort are an abductive and symbiotic plotting of science and self. The science and the self, qua practitioner and exemplar of science, are mutually affirming. The closure of autobiography – the final plotting – is done differently in each case, although open-endedness – a refusal to commit – is central to both. For Butler, the transformation is pushed forward into a future-judged authorial self, re-embodied as a textual self. For Fort, things are less clear and the uncertain ending is projected into the cosmos of his later works.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.12929/jls.08.2.02
Subjects: D History General and Old World
P Language and Literature
Q Science
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: M.R.L. Hurst
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2015 13:28 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 16:07 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/50916 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Sleigh, Charlotte: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1516-9226
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