"An intellectually and imaginatively riveting book. Helen Thompson's original and erudite study of the 'chymical' underpinnings of the ostensibly modern representational practices that were reified in the eighteenth-century novel dramatically reorients our understanding not just of that genre but of the conditions of its existence."—Jayne Lewis, University of California, IrvineIn a groundbreaking study of the relationship between chemistry and literary history, Helen Thompson explores the ways in which chemical conceptions of matter shaped eighteenth-century British culture. Although the scientific revolution championed experimental, sense-based knowledge, chemists claimed that perceptible bodies were made of invisible particles or "corpuscles." Neither modern elements nor classical atoms, corpuscles were reactive, divisible units of matter. Imperceptible but real, the corpuscle transformed empirical knowledge in early modern science and the novel.
"The intellectual qualities of Fictional Matter are formidable: dense yet highly articulate writing, a deep understanding of Boyle's, Locke's, and Newton's thought, conceptual precision, and analytic brilliance. This is required reading for anyone thinking about the relationship between science and literature."—Wolfram Schmidgen, Washington University in St. Louis
Helen Thompson is Associate Professor of English at Northwestern University. She is author of Ingenuous Subjection: Compliance and Power in the Eighteenth-Century Domestic Novel, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.