Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)
Ihde, Aaron J.; Conners, James W.
Chemical industry in early Wisconsin, pp. 5-20 PDF (5.8 MB)
1955] Clark—Influence of Science on Literary Criticism 131 same attitude toward science and criticism. See, e.g., "Literature and Science" in Greatness in Literature, 1905.) W. C. Brownell is not an historical but a judicial critic who finds "the true criterion . . . in the rationalizing of taste." He recognizes the scientific spirit (with democracy) as one of "the two supreme influences on the nineteenth century," as dominating its best intellects, and he censures Carlyle for his indifference to it. For to Brownell the "scientific spirit signifies poise between hypothesis and verification, between statement and proof, between appearance and reality," and it has been "a tonic force" on literature. For a critic to oppose science as hostile to art is "to waste one's breath," for science has given nature "new dignity"; she cannot be studied too closely, nor too long," for science increases our "sense of the immensity, the immeasurableness of things. Yet he finds Tennyson's use of science "unsatisfying." Because of "the scientific turn of her genius," George Eliot makes her plots depend on "what her characters think. The characters are individualized by their mental complexions, their evolution is a mental one." Brownell thinks that perhaps because of her "friendship with Mr. Spencer" and her "prolonged excursion into the realm of science," her characters "were data of an inexorable mental concatenation. . . [of] cause and effect, the law of moral fatality informing and connecting them. Since the time of the Greek drama this law has never ' been brought~ out more eloquently, more cogently, more inexorably, * . . more baldly." But at the same time she makes human responsibility perfectly plain. He quotes ' George Eliot as saying that Tito "was experiencing that inexorable law of human souls that we prepare ourselves for sudden deeds by the reiterated choice of good or evil that determines character," and he praises her "tonic of stoicism" and contagious "courage," noting that this derives not from religion (which is "quite neglected" in her work) but from her "scientific" reading to life. There were at least four movements counter to evolutionary criticism, in America before 1910. The first involved the revival of Waverleyism at the end of the century, as well as attempts to justify a literature of entertainment and of escapism in time and place. (Cf. Marion Crawford's "The Novel—What is It?" (1893). Second, the evolutionists' revelation of the ruthlessness of the struggle for existence and supermanism led some writers (following the later Howells) to use this revelation as proof that to be effective democracy must be implemented by a "planned economy" to safeguard equality of opportunity, and hence, reacting against evolution, there developed a considerable
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