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The Experimental ImaginationLiterary Knowledge and Science in the British Enlightenment$
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Tita Chico

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781503605442

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503605442.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM STANFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Stanford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in SSO for personal use.date: 27 May 2020

Scientific Seduction

Scientific Seduction

(p.76) 3 Scientific Seduction
The Experimental Imagination

Tita Chico

Stanford University Press

Beginning with Bacon, natural philosophy texts frequently present scientific practice as an erotic quest, establishing a correspondence between sexual seduction and natural philosophical inquiry. Bernard de Fontenelle’s and Francesco Algarotti’s scientific dialogues, translated by Aphra Behn and Elizabeth Carter, respectively, adopt the literary plot of seduction to explain and promote Cartesianism, Copernicanism, and Newtonianism. Both Behn and Carter embrace the suitability of natural philosophical education for women. For Fontenelle and Algarotti, understanding science necessitates new ways of thinking that are possible only with one’s imagination and requires that characters undergo a process of seduction. Learning science is a conversion process, simultaneously rational and affective. Mathematicians, like lovers, are persuasive and persistent, ultimately demanding submission. These scientific dialogues reframe erotic plots to promote intellectual and moral self-improvement, qualities posited as uniquely modern and widely available to the texts’ readers.

Keywords:   scientific dialogues, seduction plot, gender, eroticism, intellectual and moral self-improvement, translation, Bernard de Fontenelle, Aphra Behn, Francesco Algarotti, Elizabeth Carter

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