Danielle Spratt, Fordham University
Danielle Spratt is a second-year PhD student and teaching associate at Fordham University. She received her BA in 2002 and her MA in 2003, both from Fordham, and she then worked as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer before returning for the PhD. Concentrating in eighteenth-century British Literature, her areas of interests include the works of Swift, Sterne, Burney, and Austen, as well as the more general fields of satire, new science, the Cult of Sensibility, literary philanthropy, and pedagogy. "The Scientifically Marked Body" represents her interest in the intersection between satire and new science.
The Scientifically Marked Body: Deformity and Emasculation in the New Scientific Tradition
In "The Scientifically Marked Body," I argue that many writers, beginning with Bacon's New Atlantis in the early seventeenth century and culminating with Swift's Travels into Several Remote Nations and Sterne's Tristram Shandy, represent the emergent field of science as both emasculating and deforming for men; indeed, such writers often represent male scientists as literal or figurative eunuchs. Even more fascinating, though, is that Swift and Sterne's satires are not the first to combine new science and the emasculation of the male body. Indeed, early fiction and nonfiction representations by Bacon, Thomas Sprat, Nehemiah Grew, and Margaret Cavendish seem to anticipate new science's role in emasculation long before Walter Shandy's beloved Dr. Slop injures Tristram's "nose." Such an approach to the body not only exposes an underrepresented aspect of criticism, but it also provides an alternative framework for understanding the continual, though often subtle, critiques of and fears about the debilitating power of new science, something that later writers like Mary Shelley writ large. In essence, this study argues that rather than being a way to ascend to heaven as Newton envisioned, new science becomes barren, confused, disempowering, and destructive. In this case, the space of the male body--and the spaces that are missing from the male body--convey the dis-ease that new science promulgates in the minds of its supporters and critics alike.