Revisions of Nature: Spectacle, Gender, and Public Science Rhetoric in Eighteenth-Century Great Britain Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Milbourne, Chelsea
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • In eighteenth-century Great Britain, public audiences witnessed an astounding array of new scientific spectacles, such as hot air balloons, static electricity generators, microscopic creatures, and natural exotica brought back from foreign travels. My dissertation investigates how these spectacular science displays, as well as audiences' varied responses, helped constitute public interest and understanding about science. My research argues that science spectacles offered opportunities for public audiences to negotiate the place of emerging scientific theories and technologies within eighteenth-century cultural spheres. By engaging with the marvelous, the monstrous, and the possibly fraudulent, public audiences debated what natural objects and perceptions counted as "real," which should be valued, which should be censured, and which should transition from novelty to familiarity as they became more fully integrated within eighteenth-century life. In particular, I examine women's enthusiastic, and often overlooked, participation in public science spectacles, including the ways that their interest and embodied participation augmented the spectacle of science displays as well as the ways that women negotiated the potential for their displays of scientific knowledge to become spectacles in a pejorative sense. In this manner, my dissertation demonstrates how public science spectacles generated uncertainties not only about changing scientific theories and technologies but also about notions of gender, decorum, social class, and educational access. Ultimately, this project contends that science spectacles engendered widespread public interest in science during the eighteenth century yet also, conversely, fueled anxieties that public interest could become too popular, fashionable, and thus unintellectual.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Jack, Jordynn
  • Anderson, Daniel
  • Salvaggio, Ruth
  • Matchinske, Megan
  • Danielewicz, Jane
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2014
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • This item is restricted from public view for 1 year after publication.

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