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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I have studied at Cambridge University as both an undergraduate and a postgraduate student. I received my BA/MA in english, and my MPhil in the history and philosophy of science. My MPhil research included work on the metaphysics of Aristotle's 'biological' writings and my dissertation concerned the representation of causation in contemporary population genetic modelling. For my Phd I have returned to the Faculty of English to work on the relationship between aesthetics, literary theory and the philosophy of science.

The basis of my projected thesis is a close reading of 19th century evolutionary theory, the centrepiece of which is - perhaps invariably - the Darwinian corpus. I am interested in how categories that have been generally understood as 'solely' pertaining to aesthetics or literary theory were utilised by 19th century evolutionary thinkers in the production of scientific knowledge. Rather than simply accepting the relegation of prose style, rhetorical complexity or aesthetic categories to an epiphenomenal position in scientific theory formation, I aim to show, through a determinate study of the history of evolutionary theory, that they have a crucial epistemic or logical function. In short, I ask how scientific theorists might be understood to 'think' through aesthesis more generally. Although my thesis is likely to remain historical, interrogating the intellectual genealogy of evolutionary thought and its aesthetic corollaries, such a project has a far broader philosophical motivation: how might empiricism, as a canonical philosophical ground of scientific method, be understood in terms of aesthetic phenomenology?  


Department: Faculty of English
Supervisor: Ewan Jones
College: St John's College
AHRC Subject Area: Literary and Cultural Theory
Thesis: Aesthetics and Prose Style in 19th Century Evolutionary Theory
 John  Stowell