‚Ich habe im Sommer des Jahres 1838 eine Reihe von Beobachtungen angestellt’. Naturwissenschaftliches Erzählen im frühen 19. Jahrhundert

Martina King

Abstract


This paper explores the possibilities of a historical narratology of the life sciences – by analysing exemplary articles of two leading scientific journals of 19th century Germany. Strikingly, the old tradition of constituting scientific knowledge through first-person narrative persists into the early 19th century, although scientists develop empirical and experimental methods and abandon philosophical speculation as well as natural history. The paper argues that in the fields of geology, comparative anatomy and embryology, nature itself becomes processual and is therefore highly suitable for sequential representation; even decades before Darwin’s epoch-making publication. Thus, two major functions can be attributed to homodiegetic narration: firstly, event sequencing within early experimental contexts reduces contingencies and produces coherent lines of thought. Secondly, the truth of the represented knowledge is authenticated by a first-person narrator who has witnessed everything with his own eyes. Hence, the explanatory and the persuasive function of epistemological narration are closely interlinked.

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