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The Theater of ExperimentStaging Natural Philosophy in Eighteenth-Century Britain$
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Al Coppola

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190269715

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190269715.001.0001

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Modest Witnesses and Eager Spectators

Modest Witnesses and Eager Spectators

Engendering Enlightenment Science

Chapter:
(p.145) 5 Modest Witnesses and Eager Spectators
Source:
The Theater of Experiment
Author(s):

Al Coppola

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190269715.003.0007

This chapter investigates the gendering and engendering of natural philosophy in the long eighteenth century—that is, the way in which experimental natural philosophy was established as a preeminent scientific and cultural authority, but also the way in which this so-called rise of modern science was linked to changes in the gender ideologies that constrained scientific knowledge production. By analyzing the shifting depictions of the female science enthusiast, first in Restoration satires of the “virtuosa” inspired by Moliere, and then later in the propagation of Enlightenment “science for the ladies,” this chapter demonstrates that the subjectivity embodied by the once-despised virtuosa had profound importance for the making and witnessing of science after mid-century. Over time, the masculine modest witness of science ceded primacy to a new feminized (and increasingly female) figure, and this eager spectator changed the way in which new natural knowledge was produced and warranted as truth.

Keywords:   virtuosa, science, Enlightenment, modest witness, Cibber, epistemology, Centlivre, Moliere, Haywood, gender

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