Prometheus on Mars: Nineteenth-Century Science Fiction and the Language of Romanticism

Lehmann, Zoe Christina (2015). Prometheus on Mars: Nineteenth-Century Science Fiction and the Language of Romanticism (Unpublished). In: Poetics of Knowledge. Bern. 05-07.11.2015.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

The development of astrophysics in the nineteenth century drew mankind closer to the planets. For the first time, it was possible to give serious scientific consideration to the possibilities for life on other planets. The greatest leap, however, was in recognizing what was not known, and acknowledging the limits of human intuition. ‘Ideas,’ wrote Agnes M. Clerke, ‘have all at once become plastic’. As the scientific community tested the limits of scientific understanding, it became the role of science-fiction writers to imagine the universe beyond these limits. This paper will examine the ways in which nineteenth-century science fiction used the inheritance of the poetic language of Romanticism to reinstate the centrality of human being in the universe. I will explore the ways in which writers such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton (The Coming Race, 1871) and W. S. Lach-Szyrma (Aleriel, 1883) extended the Byronic hero to envisage extra-terrestrial utopias. The Hegelian systematic mythology described by Byron and Shelley had reimagined paradise and redemption on earth. Through science fiction, this mythology extended out towards the stars. A discourse on the possibilities of extra-terrestrial life became a Romantic discourse on the possibilities of being. The Byronic hero could now find a home not by escaping the shackles of religion, but as an angelic citizen of Venus or Mars. In this way, the paper will explore how science-fiction writers appropriated the language of Romantic poetry to build a bridge between the framework of scientific knowledge and the extent of human imagination.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures > Modern English Literature

UniBE Contributor:

Lehmann, Zoe Christina

Subjects:

800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages

Language:

English

Submitter:

Zoe Christina Lehmann Imfeld

Date Deposited:

25 Nov 2015 10:59

Last Modified:

17 Oct 2017 08:46

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/73098

Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback