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Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Devereux, Joanna


This thesis aims to explore the following questions implicit in four Victorian novels: is the relationship between science and humanities continuously at odds due to fundamental differences in philosophies? Can an understanding of how medicine transformed from an art to a science help bridge the gap between the arts and sciences? As medicine transformed into a science in the nineteenth century, it adopted three key innovations: first, Claude Bernard’s experimental method; second, what Michel Foucault later came to conceive of as the “medical gaze”; and third, Bernard’s theory of homeostasis. The thesis traces the changes in medicine as inflected across four novels. From Charles Kingsley’s Yeast (1848) to Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (1852), George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871), and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Stark Munro Letters (1895), the representation of doctors, science, and internal balance reflects the contrast between arts and sciences in the nineteenth century. This thesis employs critiques of medicine in literature in an attempt to integrate the studies of sciences and humanities.

Summary for Lay Audience

Until the late nineteenth century, medicine was considered an art. The debates of what constitutes an art and what makes a science mark key differences in approaches to the disciplines. Through tracing how medicine evolved to become a science, this thesis looks at four novels through a scientific lens. The key questions this thesis explores are how did the evolution of medicine into a science affect literature? Can critiques of medicine apply to literature? Can scientific metaphors extend our understanding of novels?