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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 January 2022

Retraining the Virtuoso’s Gaze

Retraining the Virtuoso’s Gaze

The Emperor of the Moon, the Exclusion Crisis, and the Spectacles of Science and Politics

(p.63) 2 Retraining the Virtuoso’s Gaze
The Theater of Experiment

Al Coppola

Oxford University Press

The Emperor of the Moon, a heretofore unrecognized parody of Dryden’s Albion and Albanius, restages debased spectacle in order to contain and defuse it. Aphra Behn’s play is analogous to what the Royal Society is teaching in texts like the Musaeum Regalis Societatis. Both the museum catalog and the play promote parallel anti-spectacular epistemologies that offer a corrective to the wild speculation—political, theatrical, experimental—that marks what this chapter identifies as a “culture of spectacle” that emerges during the Exclusion Crisis in the late Restoration. Behn’s farce offers physic to a culture addicted to empty spectacle; but in doing so, she aims not to do away with spectacle; rather, like the Royal Society’s new course in natural philosophy, she seeks to teach a rational mindfulness to an entire society overrun with enthusiastic virtuosi.

Keywords:   Behn, Dryden, Royal Society, Exclusion Crisis, theater, spectacle, epistemology, politics, Restoration, farce

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