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Grant number: FT-229725-15

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Meegan Kennedy Hanson
Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL 32306-0001)

The Microscope and the Limits of Wonder in Victorian Science

Summer research and writing on British Literature, History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine.

In Summer 2015 I plan to revise two of six chapters of my book manuscript, which explores Victorians' romance with the microscope: how writers use the language of wonder and the sublime to describe the eye and its technological analogue, the microscope. This visionary discourse, common in natural theology and natural history, also marks professional medical and scientific treatises, even as they warn that vision is inherently flawed. Victorians redirect the language of wonder from religious to secular use, celebrating the microscope's role in science and medicine, education, empire, even mass media; they also condemn it as unreliable, addictive, and sensational. The microscope uniquely concentrates a sublime promise of extraordinary access to other worlds and a harsh reminder of the irreducible individuality and boundedness of the observer's vision. If "a man's reach should exceed his grasp," the microscope provides a site from which Victorians try the limits of the subject.

Project fields:
British Literature; History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2015 – 7/31/2015