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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: 29 November 2021

Modest Witnesses and Eager Spectators

Modest Witnesses and Eager Spectators

Engendering Enlightenment Science

(p.145) 5 Modest Witnesses and Eager Spectators
The Theater of Experiment

Al Coppola

Oxford University Press

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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