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Title:Progress and degeneration: Adventure fiction at the end of the frontier
Author(s):Grauer, John J., Jr.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Garrett, Peter
Department / Program:History of Science
Literature, English
Discipline:History of Science
Literature, English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History of Science
Literature, English
Abstract:Throughout the nineteenth century, adventure writers created fictional tales of quests into geographic unknowns, largely based on their own experiences and the deeds of explorers. By the end of the century, however, these writers began to realize that most of the places on the globe which were before mysterious and unnamed to Westerners had been explored, or were in the process of being investigated. Consequently, adventure authors understood that soon the time would arrive when few if any blank spots would remain on maps. So, accustomed as they were to speculating, authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Rider Haggard, and Arthur Conan Doyle quickly set out to identify new avenues of exploration. As they did so, they often turned to science as a source of inspiration for identifying new unknowns to explore. Adventure fiction during this period was produced under the increasing influence of both accepted scientific theory and popular pseudoscientific speculation to identify or redefine the frontier in new and expanding ways. This increased reliance on science produced a rapidly proliferating, intertwined nexus of frontiers prominent in adventure fiction--a number of emerging, interconnected unknowns for exploration.
But even as adventure writers employed science to redirect their explorations into decidedly different categories of the unknown, they eventually revealed their skepticism over the ability of science to cure any of the inner, psychic ailments of humanity. This skepticism is not the mistrust embodied by the threatened, traditional Christianity of the day; instead, these writers moved past the sadness of the loss of Christianity as a foundational paradigm in an effort to find what might come afterward. They all believed in some form of spiritual/mystical existence, and they perceived portentous gaps in contemporary scientific knowledge as it approached this mystical other--gaps which they filled with myths amenable to their understanding of the universe. In fact, this distinctive blend of science and myth characterizes turn-of-the-century adventure fiction, as it not only seeks to explore a world whose reality is speculative, but does so in a paradigm where science and myth merge.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Grauer, John J., Jr
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9712288
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9712288

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