The Divine in the Commonplace
Reverent Natural History and the Novel in Britain
Amy M. King
Realism has long been associated with the secular, but in early nineteenth-century England a realist genre existed that was highly theological: popular natural histories informed by natural theology. The Divine in the Commonplace explores the 'reverent empiricism' of English natural history and how it conceives observation and description as a kind of devotion or act of reverence. Focusing on the texts of popular natural historians, especially seashore naturalists, Amy M. King puts these in conversation with English provincial realist novelists including Austen, Gaskell, Eliot, and Trollope. She argues that the English provincial novel has a 'reverent form' as a result of its connection to the practices and representational strategies of natural history writing in this period, which was literary, empirical, and reverent. This book will appeal to students and scholars of nineteenth-century literature, science historians, and those interested in interdisciplinary connections between pre-Darwinian natural history, religion, and literature.
Amy M. King is Associate Professor of English at St John's University, New York where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in nineteenth-century British literature, including Victorian Literature, Romantic Literature, and the Nineteenth-Century Novel. Dr. King has published widely in the field of the nineteenth-century novel, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between literature and science in the period. Dr. King is the author of Bloom: The Botanical Vernacular in the English Novel (Oxford University Press, 2007, 2003). Her current book project, “Reverent Form: Natural History and Natural Theology in the British Novel, 1789-1867,” examines the relationship between natural history and the early-Victorian novel. Her essays most recently have appeared in Victorian Studies and Literature Compass.
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