Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Matthew Rowlinson


My dissertation, “Strata, Soma, Psyche: Narrative and the Imagination in the Nineteenth-Century Science of Lyell, Darwin, and Freud,” contributes new research to the diverse field mapping the intersections of science and literature in the nineteenth century. Although scholars such as Gillian Beer and George Levine have established ties between developments in the natural sciences and the scope of the nineteenth-century novel, there has not been a sustained effort to attend to the narrative structures of the primary texts that most influenced coterminous literary movements of the period. My work thus attends closely to the narrative and imaginative form of scientific writing that attempts to transcend the limits of what can be seen. All three of Charles Lyell’s, Charles Darwin’s, and Sigmund Freud’s discipline-making texts (The Principles of Geology, The Origin of Species, and The Interpretation of Dreams) deal with historical forces whose operations cannot be observed in action, but only through the traces that are left behind. Three long single-author chapters detail how each text reconciles the ambition to establish a new branch of empirical science with the necessity of relying on the imagination to ford the gaps in physical evidence. I provide close readings of these foundational texts, identifying in each the rhetorical systems by which it represents and details what has never been present, and I demonstrate how each author strategically employs methods more conventionally associated with fictional narratives in the pursuit of establishing scientific facts. As a result, my project reframes the dominant concerns of Nineteenth-Century Literature and Science Studies by focusing in on how literary point of view, diversely defined, enables scientific thought to find a language in which to speak.