University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

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)

Page 20

 1955] Clark—Influence of Science on Literary Criticism 131 
same attitude toward science and criticism. See, e.g., "Literature and
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
spirit (with democracy) as one of "the two supreme influences on the
century," as dominating its best intellects, and he censures Carlyle
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."
of "the scientific turn of her genius," George Eliot makes her
plots depend
on "what her characters think. The characters are individualized by
mental complexions, their evolution is a mental one." Brownell thinks
perhaps because of her "friendship with Mr. Spencer" and her "prolonged
into the realm of science," her characters "were data of an inexorable
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
plain. He quotes ' George Eliot as saying that Tito "was experiencing
inexorable law of human souls that we prepare ourselves for sudden deeds
by the reiterated choice of good or evil that determines character,"
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 

Go up to Top of Page