The Experimental Imagination
Literary Knowledge and Science in the British Enlightenment
Tita Chico



The memory, senses, and understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or the vivacity of our ideas.

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739)

This is a book about the experimental imagination in the British Enlightenment. It tells the story of how literariness came to be distinguished from its epistemological sibling, science, as a source of truth about the natural and social worlds. I begin with the argument that early science formulated itself through literary knowledge. What does this mean? Natural philosophy in the late seventeenth century—the term for science at this time—relied on literariness to present experimental findings; the textual representation of such discoveries necessitated an extensive use of figurative language. More radically, I argue, the main technologies that made natural philosophy intellectually possible were so because they could be articulated in literary terms. Early science’s observed particular and modest witness together formed the backbone of evidence and authority in this new episteme. They both drew on empirical experience, of course, but weighed much more heavily on the imaginative possibilities afforded by literary knowledge. Early scientists used metaphor to define the phenomenon they studied. They also used metaphor to imagine themselves into their roles as experimentalists.

And yet this is only the beginning of my story. British literature of the long eighteenth century includes countless references to early science, whether as themes, tropes, or characters. Certainly, cultural consumers in London ate up science in an assortment of fora, eager to associate themselves with its fashionability. My book understands these mentions as much more than reflections of a culture’s increased fascination and familiarity with natural philosophy. There is such a multiplicity and diversity of allusions to science in the literary archive because numerous writers used the topic to make the case for the epistemological superiority of literary knowledge. Representing natural philosophy occasions a deliberation about its efficacy and shortcomings, particularly in contrast to the insights and truths conveyed by literariness. I use the phrase the experimental imagination to capture this simultaneously intellectual and aesthetic process.

Through the experimental imagination, the representation of early science persistently discloses its literary status—not merely in the tropological nature of scientific writing and practice, but also through the metaphorics of science that allow writers to posit alternative models of authority and evidence. The narrative I tell in this book is one of other possibilities, paths imagined as viable, reasonable, and superior to the unreliability and even danger of scientific knowledge and its acquisition.1 The truths of literary knowledge, I argue, challenge the dominant account we have inherited that identifies the scientific revolution as the sine qua non epistemological innovation of the long eighteenth, an event leading to the modern celebration of and dependence on scientific rationalization. I recover doubts about science’s efficacy and beliefs in literature’s insights, and adjust our critical lens so we can see clearly the historical moment when what we now think of as literature and science were not settled as distinct epistemologies, but were understood as deeply, if sometimes awkwardly, implicated in one another. The often noisy satiric rancor and just as pervasive quiet concern that natural philosophy generated among an array of writers, including science advocates, dramatists, satirists, essayists, and poets, together reveal a doubled epistemological trajectory: experimental observation uses imaginative speculation, and imaginative fancy enables new forms of understanding. Early scientific practice requires yet often obscures that imaginative impulse; literary knowledge embraces this impulse as a way of understanding the world at large.

The Experimental Imagination argues that the debates, contradictions, and alignments that later shape the disciplinarity associated with, and even attributed to, the British Enlightenment register a profound awareness of the literariness of science and a growing sense of literary knowledge as an independent, viable epistemology. Writers during this period understood the fictionality of objectivity and details, representing science as not only forged but also improved by the literary imagination. Taken together, the texts I examine articulate an emerging category of literary knowledge, which is drawn from literature as well as from literary interpretive methods and protocols, no matter the discipline. Literary knowledge gains value because it relies on the imagination as a source of truth, simultaneously reflecting the limits of experimental philosophy and formulating the lines of difference that eventually define the boundary between the arts and sciences. As a specifically modern form, literary knowledge facilitates a redefinition of authority and evidence. It also reveals the newly modern categories of things and observed particulars to be figurative, as well as the social, financial, and even sexual costs of objectivity.

The experimental imagination encapsulates the process and effects of literary knowledge as an epistemology. My use of the term experiment draws on its two predominant meanings as connoting experience and as tentative. Samuel Johnson’s definition of experiment aptly summons the idea of process: as a noun, it is a “trial of anything,” and as a verb, it is “to try.”2 As a realm of experience, experiment pertains to scientific process; indeed, experimentation and observation are key forms of knowledge production developed in the period.3 For Ian Hacking, experimenting is “not stating or reporting but doing [emphasis added].”4 It is an action. Understood as an attempt or a trial or a “doing,” something akin to Montaigne’s essai, experiment is likewise a discursive, rhetorical mode, an act of imaginative work tied to the protocols of genre and, more broadly, a sense of literariness. Experiments make abstractions visible, theories tangible.5 Robert Mitchell makes the compelling point that experiment in the late eighteenth century came to be appropriated from science to literature at a moment when interest in vitalism took hold.6 But long before then, long before the disciplinarity that needs to exist for such a discursive transfer to occur, reading texts and observing phenomena were understood to be far more similar than different. If, by the late eighteenth century, Coleridge and Wordsworth presented poetry as an entirely self-referential epistemology, then their Restoration and early-eighteenth-century predecessors used the tools of literary representation to find and make truths about the world.7 Specialized language, a hallmark of disciplinary difference from the late eighteenth century to now, had not yet taken hold. Figurative language, and the imaginings and means of knowing that it facilitated, were deeply imbricated with representation of the natural world, whether through the perspective of a seventeenth-century microscope or an eighteenth-century Georgic poem. Tropes made the world newly visible—and newly imaginable.

Keywords and Interventions: Literary Knowledge, Science, Trope, and Gender; Or, What Is Distinctive About This Book

The study of literature and science has been greatly enabled by the work of Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, historians of science who make literariness central to their reading of late seventeenth-century British experimentalism.8 Shapin and Schaffer’s Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life argues that Robert Boyle’s and Thomas Hobbes’s debates about the experimental method reveal the nascent protocols of facticity and modest witnessing. While Boyle and his acolytes actively defended the plausibility and accuracy of such knowledge, Hobbes insisted that such practices were logically incoherent—particularly the vacuum at the center of Boyle’s air pump—and would produce dangerous social upheaval and discord.9 These arguments also offer an important lesson: problems of knowledge and social order are mutually constitutive.10 Both Hobbes and Boyle, along with their supporters, were keenly aware of the pressing need to develop a “means of guaranteeing assent” to establish an “indefeasible civil order.”11 In their account, Shapin and Schaffer formulate the concept of “virtual witnessing,” that is, a literary technology wherein an experiment would be represented in a text for others to corroborate, as an important mechanism for the legitimization and circulation of scientific knowledge.12 But “virtual witnessing” and their central conceit of early modern objectivity, the “modest witness,” both depend on a literary imagination that is well beyond the scope of Shapin and Schaffer’s analysis, as we shall see in Chapter 1.

For many scholars (including several historians of science who gleaned the significance of literary and language studies before literary critics did), the literary strategies of Boyle and his Royal Society followers often aim exclusively for realism, a claim that inheres to an understanding of literary representation more generally as an empirical mode.13 Subsequently, numerous studies of the relationship between literature and science in the eighteenth century focus on the empiricism of the novel, a characterization posited over fifty years ago by Ian Watt’s “rise of the novel” thesis in which seventeenth-century empiricism required the descriptive writing made available through what we now call the novel.14 A great deal of critical attention has been paid to the novel as a formal expression of natural philosophy’s empiricism.15 As Helen Thompson has recently argued, the empirical-realist assumption at the core of Shapin and Schaffer’s account dovetails with the critical trend of reading the eighteenth-century novel as emerging from and indebted to experimental philosophical practices.16 When Shapin and Schaffer miss the implications of figuration, so too does scholarship that focuses exclusively on narrative as realistic.

Recent scholarship has been more capacious in thinking about literature and science. Rajani Sudan, Lucinda Cole, and Al Coppola provide vibrant cultural studies approaches to scientific discourse.17 And Jonathan Kramnick, Jayne Elizabeth Lewis, Wolfram Schmidgen, Helen Thomson, and Courtney Weiss Smith focus on novelistic and poetic representations that challenge the science-realism assumption.18 The Experimental Imagination is a book about the unique effects of the literary, and, as a consequence, it sees cultural awareness as an occasion to think through the terms of representation. Drawing on the cultural studies’ sense of representation as always socially networked, and combining this with a rigorous attention to literariness, the fundamental premise of The Experimental Imagination is that science is a literary trope.

My argument demands that we attend to science as a form of figuration, a kind of literary act. I do so throughout this book with keywords: literary knowledge, science, trope, and gender. Keywords, as Raymond Williams defines them, “are significant, binding words in certain activities and their interpretation; they are significant, indicative words in certain forms of thought.”19 They simultaneously connote praxis and theory—in Williams’s terms, activity and thought. In The Experimental Imagination, these keywords index how form and thought combine to shape new ways of understanding.

My choice of the keyword literary knowledge (rather than literature) points to literariness as a form of epistemology. Of course, the word literature in the long eighteenth century was not confined to the modern sense of creative literature, but connoted literacy; in Johnson’s Dictionary, literature is “Learning; skill in letters.” Literary knowledge still includes the representational workhorses of form and content, but it expands our notion to insist on this work as intellectual, not merely creative. Literary knowledge conveys the period’s investment in seeing the literary as a way of ascertaining truth about the world. I also view literariness as a form of practice: that is, the literary imagination makes material possible. Literariness is itself a form of making.

By science, I mean the sense available in the long eighteenth century, yet now obscure, as the state of knowing; I also draw on the definition science accrued during this same period as signifying a specific branch of study based on observation and experiment.20 Scientific practices linger in our cultural history as the discipline’s major innovation; indeed, the experimental work of natural philosophers transformed how natural phenomena were understood. Natural philosophy’s practitioners and supporters found cause to assert and defend an empirical methodology, inherited from a Baconian ideal. This is the narrative we tell ourselves as we navigate our technocratic world: the instrumentalism of scientific practice yields insight, progress, and improvement. There are solutions to problems, cures of ailments, and fixes for social ills. These are the promises of the Enlightenment, a heuristic born out of late eighteenth-century political debates that were later incorporated into the historiography of the period writ large.21 But as a heuristic, the Enlightenment embodies a specific perversion: it requires the subordination of its own misgivings.22 Late seventeenth-century debates between the ancients and the moderns, the querelle des Anciens et des Modernes, over which sort of knowledge was superior—traditional or discovered—expose, rather than suppress, such apprehensions and reveal that positive attitudes toward modernity emerged fitfully and unevenly, in no small part because modernity demanded a reconsideration and redefinition of authority and evidence.23 The late seventeenth century, when these fights unfolded, displays an epistemological uncertainty well in advance of the Enlightenment logic that enabled the sealing off and circumvention of its own subversions.

To recover the tentative, imaginative qualities at the core of natural philosophy, I use science as a relatively loose and commodious category of intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic work. Many scholars have studied particular sciences and their literary iterations.24 But natural philosophy as I use it in this book may mean experimental or observational science. It could mean mathematics. Or astronomy or microscopy. I narrate the larger difference emerging between natural philosophy and literariness rather than the discipline-specific literary histories or histories of specific sciences or genres or a single connotation embedded in practice. My goal is to suspend that disciplinary division, even as an end point, to develop the language and rubric to apprehend the possibilities that long eighteenth-century writers and thinkers imagined, cherished, and even disregarded. To study this material without understanding our own predilection for their division threatens to obscure the important and interconnected interpretive work that took place among a range of writers, thinkers, and practitioners.

The challenge we face is how to understand the relationship between literature and science. To think about a moment such as the British Enlightenment tempts one to ask what the temporal and causal relation between literature and science might be. Which came first? Does literature influence science? Or does science influence literature? With traditional and new historicisms popular in literary studies, especially eighteenth-century studies, contextual approaches that imagine history as an interpretive key are tempting. Allusive readings of Gulliver’s Travels, for example, are structurally embedded in how the satire has been published.25 Editors of Gulliver’s Travels frequently narrow Swift’s satire to specific political allegories: in this mode of interpretation, the political hijinks in Lilliput are satiric versions of English politics. Blefuscu is France. Such historicism can provide insight into the literary text and, indeed, The Experimental Imagination situates self-consciously literary texts in their milieu. But relying solely on science—or anything else, for that matter—as a historical context can too easily presume that the context is well established and stable in its signification and import and that a literary text unproblematically reflects its historical context.

Metaphor accomplishes a conflation by virtue of its transformative effects: a metaphor compares two things, but in the process, it seems to convert the original into its figurative companion. As a result, the logic of metaphoric thinking concludes with a signified that exists beyond the confines of the text itself. To depend uncritically on historical and contextual reading short-circuits the work of critical interpretation, leading to overly simple conclusions that present Gulliver’s Travels as “about,” and only “about,” historical events, people, and places. In this model, the good reader will figure out who and what Swift is satirizing. Alexander Pope capitalized on and mocked the allusive reading model when he published A Key to the Lock; Or, a Treatise Proving, Beyond All Contradiction, the Dangerous Tendency of a Late Poem, entitled The Rape of the Lock, to Government and Religion (1715) a year after his famous mock epic.

The stakes of allusive reading are even higher when considering the relation of science and literature. In the case of Gulliver’s Travels, allusive reading suggests that Swift appropriates scientific discourse and, in so doing, produces a textual belatedness.26 The influence argument is unilateral: we move from scientific innovation—or failure—to its literary reflection. Swift makes fun of early scientific practitioners, but puts his money on the losing team: those practitioners go on to win in the course of history. From this point of view, science in Gulliver’s Travels is not fundamentally flawed as an enterprise, just poorly executed. But this conclusion reads retrospectively, seeing the present in the past, seeing the British Enlightenment’s uneven, experimental, and fanciful forays into new forms of knowledge making as successful before they were accepted. Long ago, Hayden White insisted that text and context are both artifacts of their political and ideological moments.27 The case of satire is especially resonant, for, as Fredric V. Bogel reminds us, “referentiality” and even “factuality are essential conventions, products of certain rhetorical strategies” in satire.28 In Designing Women: The Dressing Room in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Culture, I took up this methodological question directly, discovering that the dressing room of history was a world away from the dressing room of literature.29 As a trope, the dressing room accomplished things related to, but fundamentally at odds with, what the dressing room conveyed as a physical space, including how it was experienced. I argued that this divergence discloses the uneasy and laborious formulation of gender difference.

Yet the idea that literature follows the scientific remains a powerful narrative, perhaps because of our collective agreement that science itself is the greatest source of truth and knowledge, that science is, as it were, right. Separating a consideration of literature from that of science, represented by C. P. Snow’s “two cultures” of disciplinarity, has the obscuring effect of negating their shared cultural status.30 “So internalized has the distinction between science and the arts become,” writes L. J. Jordanova, “that we greet any sign of a bridge between them with surprise.”31 Even with these correctives, the apparent stability of this disciplinary divide is deeply evident in our own time, where these distinctions not only shape funding and budget decisions in the modern university, but also shape public policy about what sorts of knowledge matter, with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) receiving the lion’s share of support and praise.32 Writing with an awareness of this divide-yet-to-come, some literary scholars have conceptualized the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century moment as predisciplinary, a rubric that inevitably leads to the culmination of the familiar disciplinary divide and hierarchy.33

The problem is that such approaches presume the predominance of scientific over literary regimes long before the verdict had been issued, a fact we know from the archive of history but that gets obscured in theoretical terms. The challenge for scholars of the British Enlightenment is to acknowledge the peculiarity between then and now, and to hold that peculiarity as simultaneously disorienting and illustrative. How do we get out from the teleology that sees science as a winner of history and literature as its debased sibling, scampering to catch up? What, in other words, comes after belatedness? Or, as Gillian Beer asks, “How to explain the concurrent appearance of similar ideas in science and in literature without inevitably forging causal links?”34 An invigorating response is Peter Galison’s concept of a “trading zone” in which the individuals, resources, and activities necessary to produce modern experiments converge.35 Visualizing literature and science cohabitating in a conceptual trading zone presents a metaphor to apprehend the similarity of and differences between the protocols and practices of literature and science.36 However, the trading zone has it limits. As a figure for commerce, the trading zone emphasizes exchange without parsing out what these particular relations might be. It also presumes that the players involved are fully formed as they enter into this marketplace, a presumption anachronistic to the long eighteenth century.

The broader questions we must ask, therefore, are these: What happens when one turns to a context that is in flux and imagined through and apart from the means of its representation? What happens when we step back to ask, “What are these texts reflecting?” The category of reflection as a mode of critical interpretation desperately needs reconsideration because it has the tendency to institute a temporality of cause and effect. The idea of representation as reflection builds in a belatedness that can never be overcome, a belatedness that echoes the binary privileging of speech over writing in Western philosophy Derrida revealed to us many years ago.37

To offer a revitalized approach to these questions, I turn to a tract by Robert Boyle, founding member of the Royal Society, powerful advocate for the experimental method, and brilliant chemist. Boyle’s The Excellency of Theology illuminates the meanings and relationship of literary knowledge and science that animate my thinking in this book. In this treatise, Boyle announces, “The two great Books, of Nature and of Scripture, have the same Author.”38 Boyle’s statement can be understood as an expression of physico-theology, a “quest for a single system of representation that articulates its equally strong commitments to experimental philosophy and to theology.”39 When Boyle and his contemporaries link the book of nature and the book of scripture, they are able to imagine a prelapsarian quality to their intellectual project, divorcing experimental knowledge from the vagaries of a degraded, subjective self. As a consequence, the early scientist could be conceptualized as an Adam figure, a subject imagined to redeem the fallen world and to institute a divinely ordained political stability.40

However, Boyle’s intellectual project veers toward a specific form of literariness. Scripture certainly has its place, but for the purposes of an analogical exegesis of the natural philosophical process of discovery, Boyle earlier in The Excellency of Theology likens the book of nature to literature. These two sorts of books, and these two sorts of epistemologies, have a similar effect on the individual. One comparison is to Aesop’s Fables, another to romances. Boyle writes, “For when you have brought an Experiment to an Issue, though the Event may often prove such as you will be pleas’d with; yet it will seldome prove such as you can acquiesce in. For it fares not with an Inquisitive mind in studying the Book of Nature, as in reading of Aesop’s Fables, or some other collection of Apologues of differing sorts.”41 Boyle is concerned here with the limits of knowledge, particularly inductive knowledge. The expression of this realm of unknowability relies on an uneasy confluence of the scientific and the literary, a conjunction to which Boyle returns when he writes, “The full discovery of Natures Mysteries, is so unlikely to fall to any mans share in this Life, that the case of the Pursuers of them is at best like theirs, that light upon some excellent Romance, of which they shall never see the latter parts.”42 The process of acquiring knowledge is like reading a book, a romance, that one can never finish. The natural philosopher is like a reader who has access to only the first volume of a multivolume work. The literary here stands for what can never be completed, a characterization in tension with the exigencies of closure associated with plot more generally. Natural philosophy is partial, incomplete, and never ending, and this quality finds expression in Boyle’s sense of the literary. Boyle’s allusions to Aesop’s Fables and romances ground his claims for science, but they also provide an instance of a much larger network of associations that are the subject of my study: figurative language and the imaginings it facilitated were deeply enfolded with representing the natural world.

The Experimental Imagination concentrates on possibilities imagined, if not fully developed, when writers contemplate what a natural philosophical approach to the world might be. For many in the long eighteenth century, natural philosophy requires the imaginative impulses available within a literary framework.43 Natural philosophy is not merely a practice or a form of knowledge: it is a trope.44 I use trope as a keyword because it vividly records the shifting and intricate relationship of early science and literary knowledge. A trope, of course, is a figure of speech; as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, a trope “consists in the use of a word or phrase in a sense other than that which is proper to it.”45 Etymologically, trope conveys motion; it embodies a turning. Thus understood, a trope exploits the figuration made possible through language, making connections and relations that may or may not be “proper” to the original object. Not far from its rhetorical sibling the metaphor, which draws on the idea of a transfer from one thing to another but is wider in its connotative and dynamic possibilities, the concept of trope provides a lens to view the representational work of early science and literature as itself a mechanism for making meaning.

My use of trope stresses that early science finds its intellectual and conceptual footing in the metaphoric thinking available through literary knowledge and that literary writers in turn wield natural philosophy as a figure for the importance and unique insights of literary knowledge. While early experimental philosophers were often fearful that the imagination would lead to corruption and demean their tenuous claims to objectivity, they were simultaneously aware of its significance to the protocols of observation and the circulation of their methodology. Literary writers more commonly embraced the imaginative potential of such witnessing and the fanciful observed particulars it might produce. The topic of science occasions vibrant considerations of character, plot, and metaphor, enabling writers to use natural philosophy metaphorically to move well beyond its intellectual and ideological limits. The authors we now know as literary emphasized and exploited the imaginative potential that those whom we now call scientists used often with ambivalence. In this book, I tell the story of how the imaginative qualities of literature told the truth.

Science as a literary trope precipitates epistemological and ideological changes that often get worked out as questions of gender, my final keyword. Gender can be an identity or a relation. The feminist commitment of this book sees in these texts the architecture of social connections, a playing out of the shifts in evidence and authority that scientific and textual practices could facilitate. With my attention to gender, I am able to identify a wider and more expansive archive central to reading science as a trope. Consider a text that one does not ordinarily encounter in approaches to science and literature, Eliza Haywood’s Eovaai (1736). Haywood’s novel is a political allegory featuring a deposed queen of the same name. Eovaai is trained in Lockean philosophy to rule her country, but she has been seduced by the phantasmagorical Ochihaton, a stand-in for Walpole, whose power derives from a magical wand. In his mystified state, Ochihaton is handsome and charming, luring Eovaai into treacherous amatory and political waters. At the height of this danger, a genie appears to give Eovaai a telescope and urges her to “behold your Lover as he really is: all Delusions of the Ypres [the supernatural spirits helping him] vanish before this sacred Telescope, nor can even they themselves, invisible as they are to human Sight, escape detection by the Eye that looks through this.”46 This “sacred Telescope” also has night vision, enabling the viewer to “see all as clearly as at Noon-day.”47

Eovaai’s telescope allows her to see the truth of bodies. However, Eovaai can see “clearly” not only because she is in possession of the magical telescope, but also because she is subjectively situated in a scenario that requires her discovery of this knowledge. She is at a point of sexual peril—a moment of heightened physical vulnerability in which all she is is a body. Eovaai here exists solely as a female body subject to the erotic control and abuse of Ochihaton. As is so familiar in the period, a heroine’s vulnerable embodiment becomes, paradoxically, the source of her agency. She is emphatically not the objective scientist, the modest witness: she is instead an immodest witness who derives her wisdom and power from her embodiment and subjectivity. To apprehend her presence and effect is to constitute the archaeology of the modest witness topos, a figure that was and remains as fictional as Jonathan Swift’s Laputans in need of their flappers to return themselves to their bodies. The erasure of the female body from the subject position of the natural philosopher is a fundamentally patriarchal move; it depends on a now tired binary of female embodiment and masculine abstraction. To insist on the body, particularly the scientific body, the legitimate scientific body, is, in turn, a powerfully feminist rejoinder.48

In this book, gender as a keyword measures the migratory patterning of scientific subjectivities. By observing gender while simultaneously observing matters of literary knowledge and science, we can glimpse the wider social, ideological, and imaginative structures taking shape and coming to determine what experience, evidence, and authority could be in the British Enlightenment—including for and by whom. I understand some of these possibilities in this book as dramatized in the relations of gender and, in this way, uniquely provide a consistently feminist account of literature and science in the period. Thinking figuratively—thinking through the experimental imagination—offers a potentially liberatory mode of subjectivity. New ways of imagining agency and self-improvement for an expanded population emerged, which included, most dramatically, unmarried women.


I begin the story of The Experimental Imagination with literary knowledge, particularly as it is expressed and utilized in natural philosophical texts. Chapters 1 and 2 argue for the literary knowledge available through figuration, with dedicated attention to individuals who imagine themselves to be scientists. In Chapter 1, I study the texts of Samuel Pepys, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Henry Power, Thomas Sprat, Benjamin Martin, and Henry Baker—all enthusiasts of natural philosophy who penned diary entries, experiments, guidebooks, treatises, and instrument guides. I make the case that the writing of natural philosophical experiments depends heavily on the metaphoric possibilities of literary language and that modernity, a concept bound up with experimental philosophy, also relied on figuration. But this is only my first critical intervention. These aspects of description merely hint at the more radical revelation that literariness enables a whole-scale imagining of the proper object of natural philosophical inquiry as well as the subject proper to carry it out. The development of the observed particular (the thing) and the modest witness (the neutral observer) as the key protocols of scientific method might be presented as a priori, but these protocols are crafted through the imaginative logic of literariness.

In Chapter 2, I turn to bad scientists, variously satirized and pilloried in plays and periodicals of the long eighteenth century. I argue that failed scientists and scenes of scientific failure allow playwrights and essayists to scrutinize scientific observational practice. A self-consciously literary framework allows for the exploration of the inherent immodesty of the witness whose interest, rather than disinterest, productively factors into scientific debate, education, and civic society. Immodest witnesses index the self-interest, sexual desire, and circulation of wealth implicitly bound up with the practice of experimental philosophy. The characterization of Gimcracks (a proper noun for foolish scientists) in Thomas Shadwell’s The Virtuoso, James Miller’s The Humours of Oxford, and Susannah Centlivre’s The Basset-Table and coquettes in Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s the Spectator and Eliza Haywood’s the Female Spectator all depend on immodesty, a quality that foregrounds self-interest. As surprising as they may be in a scientific context, these characters lay bare the embodiment inherent in scientific observation. If the ideal natural philosopher (always a male of gentlemanly status) removed himself to achieve objectivity and to speak only for the object under examination, then the Gimcrack and coquette were defined by an inability to overcome prejudice and desires, speaking for himself or herself rather than for the object. For some, this form of bias leads only to self-delusion, eroticism, and social obstruction; for others, it allows a new form of self-directed agency and social, even moral, improvement.

These two opening chapters expound the role that literary knowledge, visible as metaphor, plot, and characterization, plays in the formulation of the intellectual and social effects of the experimental imagination. Following my deliberation on the scientific subjects and subjectivities that literary knowledge exposes, I address how one might enter into this intellectual community. Chapter 3 reads scientific dialogues to understand the process of learning science correctly—how one comes to believe in the discoveries of natural philosophy. I concentrate on two dialogues translated into English, Bernard de Fontenelle’s study of Copernican and Cartesian cosmology, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (1686), translated by Aphra Behn as A Discovery of New Worlds, and Francesco Algarotti’s rendering of Newtonian optics, Il Newtonianismo per le dame, ovvero, dialoghi sopra la luce e i colori (1737), translated by Elizabeth Carter as Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explain’d for the Use of the Ladies. Both dialogues adopt the literary plot of seduction to explain how scientific instruction works. Mathematicians, we learn, are like lovers—persuasive and persistent, ultimately demanding submission. To understand Cartesianism, Copernicanism, or Newtonianism necessitates new ways of thinking that are possible only with one’s “fancy.” These scientific dialogues reframe erotic relations to promote intellectual and moral self-improvement, qualities posited as uniquely modern and widely available to the texts’ readers.

Seduction moves an individual from one set of beliefs to another—from ignorance to enlightenment—and the process of scientific seduction introduces the question of what sort of community is subsequently possible. Chapter 4 answers this query by considering sociopolitical formations available through the practice of natural philosophy. The three prose texts I examine all use the conventions of literary knowledge to express their scientific-political visions: Thomas Sprat’s scientific manifesto, The History of the Royal Society; Margaret Cavendish’s utopic romance, The Blazing World; and Jonathan Swift’s Menippean satire, Gulliver’s Travels. The experimental imagination mobilized in these three texts uses literariness—including genre and metaphor—to envisage, in turn, an idealized civil government, an absolutist monarchy, and imperialism.

If the trope of science authorizes writers to imagine new forms of evidence and new forms of observation, as well as new processes of learning and geopolitical formation, then it also provokes numerous poets in the early eighteenth century to turn to a specifically aesthetic register. Aesthetics mediates and, as a consequence, supersedes the promised insights of natural philosophy, as poets consider what can be observed, how it can be represented, and who is equipped and authorized to do both (or even either) of these. With Chapter 5, I conclude The Experimental Imagination by studying poems that self-consciously utilize a scientific referent to posit aesthetics as epistemologically superior to natural philosophy. Scientific tropes provide shape to eighteenth-century aesthetics and therefore expose the reciprocity of scientific and literary epistemologies. These poems all fully exploit their allegiance to literary knowledge by aestheticizing science. Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, poems inspired by Queen Caroline’s homage to British theological and scientific accomplishments in her Richmond Hermitage, and James Thomson’s The Seasons emphasize the epistemological limitations of science, build an argument for the superiority of literariness, and reimagine subjectivity.

I have collected an extensive archive in the chapters that follow. It includes experiments published under the auspices of the Royal Society; guidebooks by instrument makers selling to enthusiasts; plays staged in Restoration and early eighteenth-century playhouses; periodicals sold in and circulated among the London coffeehouses; English translations of scientific dialogues that redact Copernicus, Descartes, and Newton; sprawling scientific manifesto, utopic romance, and Menippean satire; and poetry concerned with the London elite, British intellectual worthies, and the Georgic landscape. In all of these texts, scientific themes, characters, objects, and plots play pivotal roles. But beyond their thematic work, these instances imagine past the boundaries natural philosophers impose, whether through technological limitation or in an effort to shore up their credibility, and signal moments of deep literariness as they do so. Let loose, scientific tropes generate profound reconsiderations of what authority might be, who has it, and how it might be transformed. And ultimately, scientific tropes shape the types of stories that we tell about ourselves.


1. Hasok Chang takes a similar approach but from the vantage of a scientist by “dredging up exactly those parts of past science that scientists themselves tend not to notice or remember because they do not fit nicely into current conceptions or customs.” In Hasok Chang, “Practicing Eighteenth-Century Science Today,” in Nature Engaged: Science in Practice from Renaissance to the Present, ed. Mario Biagioli and Jessica Riskin (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 41, 55.

2. “Experiment,” Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (London, 1755).

3. As Julian Martin explains, “Bacon used the single term ‘experiment’ to describe very different sorts of activity by the natural historian: the passive reporting both of observed craft practices and techniques, and of particular inquiries conducted by other men; the ‘artificial’ investigations he carried out himself; and any subsequent, ‘more subtle,’ investigations.” In Julian Martin, Francis Bacon, the State and the Reform of Natural Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 155. See the extended discussion of the post-Baconian seventeenth-century experiment as an early scientific practice in Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 3–21. The connection between “experiment” and “observation” emerged in the eighteenth century. See Lorraine Daston, “The Empire of Observation, 1600–1800,” in Histories of Scientific Observation, ed. Lorraine Daston and Elizabeth Lunbeck (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 81–113. See also Marie Boas Hall, Promoting Experimental Learning: Experiment and the Royal Society, 1660–1727 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

4. Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 173; see also 191.

5. Experiments were absolutely central to the acceptance of (and familiarity with) Newtonianism in the early eighteenth century. See Simon Schaffer, “Glass Works: Newton’s Prisms and the Uses of Experiment,” in The Uses of Experiment: Studies in Natural Sciences, ed. David Gooding, Trevor Pinch, and Simon Schaffer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 95–96.

6. For Mitchell, the adjectival use of experimental is a key modifier for his use of vitalism because it refers to the practices developed and promulgated in the late seventeenth century. See Robert Mitchell, Experimental Life: Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 3, 7.

7. Robin Valenza, Literature, Language, and the Rise of the Intellectual Disciplines in Britain, 1680–1820 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 139–72.

8. A complete bibliography of the history of science is too large to list here, but important books from the last thirty years that attend to literary and aesthetic culture include Michael Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Margaret C. Jacob, The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988); Barbara Maria Stafford, Body Criticism: Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991); Larry Stewart, The Rise of Public Science: Rhetoric, Technology, and Natural Philosophy in Newtonian Britain, 1660–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Londa Schiebinger, Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993); Peter Dear, Discipline and Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995) and Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500–1700 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 (New York: Zone Books, 1998); Lorraine Daston, ed., Biographies of Scientific Objects (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity (New York: Zone Books, 2007); and Lorraine Daston and Elizabeth Lunbeck, ed., Histories of Scientific Observation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).

9. Shapin and Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump, 80–154.

10. Ibid., 15.

11. Ibid., 283.

12. Ibid., 60–65.

13. See, for example, Margaret C. Jacob, The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689–1720 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976) and The Cultural Meaning; Kenneth J. Knoespel, “The Narrative Matter of Mathematics: John Dee’s Preface to the Elements of Euclid of Megara (1570),” Philological Quarterly 66, no. 1 (1987): 27–46, and “The Mythological Transformations of Renaissance Science,” in Literature and Science as Modes of Expression, ed. Frederick Amrine and Stephen J. Weininger (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1989), 99–112; James J. Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995); Anita Guerrini, Obesity and Depression in the Enlightenment: The Life and Times of George Cheyne (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000) and Experimenting with Humans and Animals: From Galen to Animal Rights (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Lissa Roberts, “An Arcadian Apparatus: Steam Engines and Landscapes in the History of Dutch Culture,” Technology and Culture 45, no. 2 (April 2004): 251–276; and William R. Newman and Lawrence M. Principe, Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of the Helmontian Chymistry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).

14. Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957).

15. See, for example, John Bender, Ends of Enlightenment (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 38–56; and Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 65–73; Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992), 44; and Mary Baine Campbell, Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 201, 186–187.

My initial interest in literature and science concerned novelistic details and experimentalism’s minute particulars. See “Minute Particulars: Microscopy and Eighteenth-Century Narrative,” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 39, no. 2 (2006): 143–161; “‘the More I Write, the More I Shall Have to Write’: The Many Beginnings of Tristram Shandy,” in Narrative Beginnings: Theories and Practices, ed. Brian Richardson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008), 83–95; and “Details and Frankness: Affective Relations in Sir Charles Grandison,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 38 (2009): 45–68.

16. Helen Thompson, Fictional Matter: Empiricism, Corpuscles, and the Novel (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), 16–21.

17. Rajani Sudan, The Alchemy of Empire: Abject Materials and the Technologies of Colonialism (NY: Fordham University Press, 2016); Lucinda Cole, Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literature, and the Sciences of Life, 1600–1740 (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016); and Al Coppola, The Theater of Experiment: Staging Natural Philosophy in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

18. Jonathan Kramnick, Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010); Jayne Elizabeth Lewis, Air’s Appearance: Literary Atmosphere in British Fiction, 1660–1794 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012); Wolfram Schmidgen, Exquisite Mixture: The Virtues of Impurity in Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013); and Thompson, Fictional Matter. Courtney Weiss Smith focuses on poetry in Empiricist Devotions: Science, Religion, and Poetry in Early Eighteenth-Century England (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2016).

19. Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 13.

20. “Science,” Oxford English Dictionary, n. 1a: “The state or fact of knowing; knowledge or cognizance of something; knowledge as a personal attribute.” n. 3b: “A branch of study that deals with a connected body of demonstrated truths or with observed facts systematically classified and more or less comprehended by general laws, and incorporating trustworthy methods (now esp. those involving the scientific method and which incorporate falsifiable hypotheses) for the discovery of new truth in its own domain.” On the terms science and natural philosophy, see Andrew Cunningham, “Getting the Game Right: Some Plain Words on the Identity and Invention of Science,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 19, no. 3 (1988): 365–389; and Peter Dear, “Religion, Science and Natural Philosophy: Thoughts on Cunningham’s Thesis,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 32, no. 2 (2001): 377–386.

21. Johann Karl Möhsen, “What Is to Be Done toward the Enlightenment of the Citizenry?” (1783); Moses Mendelssohn, “On the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” (1784); Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” (1784); and Karl Leonhard Reinhold, “Thoughts on Enlightenment” (1784). The bibliography on the Enlightenment is vast, but Peter Hulme and Ludmilla Jordanova give an illustrative account of how the term came to function in historiography. “Introduction,” in The Enlightenment and Its Shadows, ed. Peter Hulme and Ludmilla Jordanova (London: Routledge, 1990), 1–15; see esp. 1–4.

22. I refer to Geoffrey Galt Harpham’s reading of the Spanish Inquisition as a form of Enlightenment. In Geoffrey Galt Harpham, “So . . . What Is Enlightenment? An Inquisition into Modernity,” Critical Inquiry 20, no. 3 (1994): 524–564. See also Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972); Michel Foucault, “What Is Enlightenment?” from The Foucault Reader, ed. P. Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 32–50; Jürgen Habermas, “The Unity of Reason in the Diversity of Its Voices,” in Postmetaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays, trans. William Mark Hohengarten (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 115–148; Max Horkheimer, “Reason Against Itself: Some Remarks on Enlightenment,” Theory, Culture & Society 10 (1993): 79–88; and Richard Rorty, “The Continuity between the Enlightenment and ‘Postmodernism,’” in What’s Left of Enlightenment? A Postmodern Question, ed. Keith Michael Baker and Peter Hanns Reill (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 19–36. Clifford Siskin and William Warner’s This Is Enlightenment contends that the Enlightenment is an event in what they describe as the history of mediation. See Siskin and Warner, “This Is Enlightenment: An Invitation in the Form of an Argument,” in This Is Enlightenment, ed. Clifford Siskin and William Warner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 1–33.

23. Richard Foster Jones, Ancients and Moderns: A Study of the Rise of the Scientific Movement in Seventeenth-Century England, 2nd ed. (St. Louis, MO: Washington University Press, 1961); and Joseph M. Levine, The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991).

24. Particularly fine examples include Robert Mitchell’s study of vitalism, Experimental Life; Catherine Packham’s Eighteenth-Century Vitalism: Bodies, Culture, Politics (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); and Helen Thompson’s work on chemistry in Fictional Matter.

25. The scientific allusions and themes in Gulliver’s Travels have been well documented, beginning with Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s Science and Imagination (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1956). More recent contributions include Fredrick N. Smith, “Scientific Discourse: Gulliver’s Travels and the Philosophical Transactions,” in Genres of Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Fredrick N. Smith (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990), 139–162; Deborah Needleman Armintor The Little Everyman: Stature and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century English Literature (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011), 56–79; and Kristin M. Girten, “Mingling with Matter: Tactile Microscopy and the Philosophic Mind in Brobdingnag and Beyond,” The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 54, no. 4 (2013): 497–520. For editorial practice, see, for example, Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Albert J. Rivero (New York: Norton, 2002), 28, n. 3; 40, notes 1, 2, 4; 45, n. 7; 56, n. 6; 60, n. 2; and 61, n. 4; and Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. with an introduction by Claude Rawson and notes by Ian Higgins, new edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 292, n. 34; 292–93, n. 36; 294, n. 48.

26. Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s foundational scholarship in the field from the mid-twentieth century onward assumes that science produces an innovation that literary writers then lambaste or celebrate. Nicolson’s understanding is that there is a model of influence at work—science on literature. Science is the modernizing impulse, and literature is an arena of conservative reaction, a trajectory that expedites the epistemic shift to science as the dominant source of truth. See Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Newton Demands the Muse: Newton’s Opticks and the Eighteenth Century Poets (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966); Science and Imagination; Pepys’ Diary and the New Science (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1965); and, with G. S. Rousseau, “This Long Disease, My Life”: Alexander Pope and the Sciences (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968). For more recent examples of the “influence” model, see Ilse Vickers, Defoe and the New Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), and Stuart Peterfreund, William Blake in a Newtonian World: Essays on Literature as Art and Science (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998).

27. Hayden White, “Literature and Social Action: Reflections on the Reflection Theory of Literary Art,” New Literary History 11, no. 2 (1980): 363–380.

28. Fredric V. Bogel, The Difference Satire Makes: Rhetoric and Reading from Jonson to Byron (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), 11; see also 5–6. Dustin Griffin suggests that “the historical particulars in satire always have a curious in-between status, neither wholly fact nor wholly fiction.” In Satire: A Critical Reintroduction (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995), 123; see also 115–132.

29. Tita Chico, Designing Women: The Dressing Room in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Culture (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2005).

30. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959). See also Erwin Schrödinger’s lectures, “Nature and the Greeks” and “Science and Humanism” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

31. L. J. Jordanova, “Introduction,” in Languages of Nature: Critical Essays on Science and Literature, ed. L. J. Jordanova (London: Free Association Books, 1986), 15–16.

32. The popular accounts of the privileging of STEM are ubiquitous in the modern press. In spring 2016, President Obama’s proposed budget included $4.1 billion for STEM education in primary and secondary education. See, for example, Mikhail Zinshteyn, “The Reality of Coding Classes,” in The Atlantic, February 1, 2016.

33. See G. S. Rousseau, Enlightenment Borders: Pre- and Post-modern Discourses: Medical, Scientific (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991), 217–218; and Judith Hawley, “General Introduction,” in Literature and Science, 1660–1834, gen. ed. Judith Hawley, 8 vols. (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2003–2004), 1:xii.

34. Gillian Beer, Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 177.

35. Peter Galison, Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

36. In the Romantic period, for example, natural history, neither fully science nor fully literature, provides a venue for their interplay. See Noah Heringman, “The Commerce of Literature and Natural History,” in Romantic Science: The Literary Forms of Natural History, ed. Noah Heringman (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), 1–19; esp. 1–11; and Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004), 7–19.

37. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).

38. Robert Boyle, The Excellency of Theology Compar’d with Natural Philosophy, (as both are Objects of Men’s Study) (London, 1674), 121.

39. Robert Markley, Fallen Languages: Crises of Representation in Newtonian England, 1660–1740 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), 7.

40. Ibid., 8; and Joanna Picciotto, Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 1–4.

41. Boyle, The Excellency of Theology, 117.

42. Ibid., 118–119.

43. To debunk the Enlightenment legacy of scientific objectivity, Gerald Holton uses firsthand accounts from Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and Robert Andrews Millikan to argue that the “scientific imagination” is central to the discipline today. See Gerald Holton, The Scientific Imagination (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 3–24.

44. Sharyn Clough makes the persuasive case that matters of epistemology in feminist science studies rely on “representationalism,” defined as “a philosophical model that . . . invoke[s] an image of knowers as interpreters, collecting data about the empirical world without themselves being part of that world. . . . On this model we are the uninterpreted interpreters examining the empirical data as they have been filtered and presented to us.” The effect is a recapitulation of normative patriarchy. See Sharyn Clough, Beyond Epistemology: A Pragmatist Approach to Feminist Science Studies (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 12.

My understanding of trope draws on Karen Barad’s theory of agential realism, which contends that the reflective model of representation—one undergirding poststructuralist and, implicitly, structuralist theory—inadequately imagines a sharp, optically infused division between subject and object or even between and among objects, no matter their epistemological, ontological, or ideological positionings. Barad offers a new optical model based on diffraction, the fundamental understanding borne out of quantum physics, to theorize relations of difference anew, developing what she calls “a diffractive mode of analysis.” Reflection and diffraction are both optical metaphors, but “whereas the metaphor of reflection reflects the themes of mirroring and sameness, diffraction is marked by patterns of difference.” A diffractive model focuses on the entanglements that make difference seem ontological and a priori, though such boundaries are produced only through the convergence of that which they seem to separate. These “agential cuts” emerge at the moment of entanglement and have the effect of retrospective being. This is more than being mutually constitutive. They produce what they purport merely to reflect, and they also produce these differences as if they always existed. The work of the critic, therefore, is to “refuse the idea of a natural (or, for that matter, a purely cultural) division between nature and culture” and provide “an accounting of how this boundary is actively configured and reconfigured.” Diffraction acknowledges that boundaries, as markers of difference, seem stable until we look closely enough to see that the looking produces those boundaries as if they were ontological. See Karen Barad, Meeting the University Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 73, 71, 72, 136.

45. “Trope,” Oxford English Dictionary, n. I.1.a.

46. Eliza Haywood, The Adventures of Eovaai, Princess of Ijaveo: a Pre-Adamitical History, ed. Earla Wilputte (Peterborough, ONT: Broadview Press, 1999), 94.

47. Ibid., 94.

48. My reading of Eovaai is inspired by Natasha Myers’s work on protein modelings that present the biological body as known best by an emphatically embodied scientist. Myers demonstrates that researchers use “their bodies kinesthetically to manipulate and learn protein structures.” These are forms of “body-work” “intrinsic to the work of mechanistic modeling.” In Natasha Myers, Rendering Life Molecular: Models, Modelers, and Excitable Matter (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), 6. For related and important discussions of feminism and science studies, see the essays in Barbara Laslett, Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, Helen Longino, and Evelynn Hammonds, eds., Gender and Scientific Authority (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); and Londa Schiebinger, Has Feminism Changed Science? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).