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Scientific Discoveries and the Public Debate on ‘The Human Condition’ in Victorian Britain: An Analysis of Periodicals for Young Readers, 1847-1900 (Science in Magazines)
Start date: Jan 1, 2009, End date: Dec 31, 2010 PROJECT  FINISHED 

In Britain, from the middle of the nineteenth century on, scientific discoveries (e.g. anaesthesia) and theories (e.g. evolution theory) fundamentally changed the way humanity perceives of itself; science engendered a controversial cultural debate on ‘the human condition’ and on humanity’s position in nature (or ‘creation’) that is still on-going. On the basis of a large corpus of Victorian periodicals for young readers, the project will examine the treatment of natural and human sciences (i.e. biology, medicine, ethnology, anthropology) and the extent to which this treatment reflects and positions itself within this public debate. The project will not only contribute to our understanding of Victorian literature for young readers – particularly with regard to interrelations between scien-tific discourse and its ‘translation’ into fictional and non-fictional texts for lay readers –, but also, more generally, to our understanding of the interplay of scientific development and cultural, ethical and religious debates that started in the Victorian period but which are still current today (for example in the controversies around the creationist concept of ‘intelligent design’ as part of school curricula). The project will utilize quantitative and qualitative approaches (descriptive statistics, discourse analysis, text-sociology, cultural history) to chart sociological factors of text production and reception and their influence on the treatment of science and its ideological implications. The researcher will publish his findings in journal articles. As a further result, the project will create an on-line database indexing the treatment of science in periodicals which will make the material much more easily accessible for scholars in the fields of British literature and cultural studies, the history of science, cultural history or other disciplines.

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