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Science and religion in neo-Victorian novels: eye of the ichthyosaur

Science and religion in neo-Victorian novels: eye of the ichthyosaur

Glendening, John

Criticism about the neo-Victorian novel - a genre of historical fiction that re-imagines aspects of the Victorian world from present-day perspectives - has expanded rapidly in the last fifteen years but given little attention to the engagement between science and religion. Of great interest to Victorians, this subject often appears in neo-Victorian novels including those by such well-known authors as John Fowles, A. S. Byatt, Graham Swift, and Mathew Kneale. This book discusses novels in which nineteenth-century science, including geology, paleontology, and evolutionary theory, interacts with religion through accommodations, conflicts, and crises of faith. In general, these texts abandon conventional religion but retain the ethical connectedness and celebration of life associated with spirituality at its best. Registering the growth of nineteenth-century secularism and drawing on aspects of the romantic tradition and ecological thinking, they honor the natural world without imagining that it exists for humans or functions in reference to human values. In particular, they enact a form of wonderment: the capacity of the mind to make sense of, creatively adapt, and enjoy the world out of which it has evolved - in short, to endow it with meaning. Protagonists who come to experience reality in this expansive way release themselves from self-anxiety and alienation. In this book, Glendening shows how, by intermixing past and present, fact and fiction, neo-Victorian narratives, with a few instructive exceptions, manifest this pattern

Book. English.
Published London: Routledge, 2013
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Statement of responsibility: John Glendening
ISBN: 0203383230, 0415819431, 9780203383230, 9780415819435
Physical Description: 261 p. ; 23 cm.
Series: Routledge studies in nineteenth-century literature
Subject: Science in literature.; English fiction 20th century History and criticism.; English fiction 21st century History and criticism.; Religion in literature.; Historical fiction, English History and criticism.


  1. 1. Introduction 2. Reconstructing History: "The World-Renowned Ichthyosaurus" 3. Fossils and Faith
  2. Remarkable Creatures, Ever After, and The Bone Hunter4. Paradises Lost
  3. The Voyage of the Narwhal and English Passengers 5. Evolution and the Uncrucified Jesus
  4. The French Lieutenant's Woman 6. True Romance: A. S. Byatt's Possessionand "Morpho Eugenia" 7. Devil's Chaplain
  5. This Thing of Darknessand Mr.
  6. Darwin's Shooter 8. Victorians and Other Apes
  7. Monkey's Uncleand Ark Baby 9. Conclusion:Confessing a Murderand Love and the Platypus

Author note

John Glendening is Professor in the Department of English at the University of Montana, US.