A Cultural History of Causality:
Science, Murder Novels, and Systems of Thought
Stephen Kern

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"[An] impressive study of causality. . . . Kern offers some fascinating insights into the relationship between science and literature, as well as the history of our attempts to explain the why and wherefore."--PD Smith, The Guardian


"Kern gives us in this book a brilliant history of modern causality, which he traces in fiction from the linear unities of the realist novel through the indirection and uncertainty of modernism. He hits on the ingenious device of analyzing literary treatments of murder to illuminate the changing psychiatric, social, linguistic, and biological theories of cause mirrored in the history of contemporary philosophy and science. This is a text of incomparable richness, ingenuity, and careful reasoning."--Robert Nye, Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History, Oregon State University

"Whether one is interested in causality or in culture, or in the history of their relationships, this is an essential book."--Arkady Plotnitsky, Professor of English and Director of Theory and Cultural Studies, Purdue University

"Historians of late have been returning to the scene of the crime. And if murder is where bodies and histories cross, then there is no better place than the scene of the crime to take the temperature of modernity. Stephen Kern's richly informed investigation of causality's strange history shows why."--Mark Seltzer, author of Serial Killers: Death and Life in America's Wound Culture and True Crime

"Like his earlier book, The Culture of Time and Space, this is a work of daunting intellect that moves fearlessly between literary and scientific achievements in its exploration of human thought. In analyzing famous fictional murders, Kern has written a book that flows like a detective story. While it operates at the highest intellectual level, it is also a pleasure to read."--Laura Otis, Professor of English, Hofstra University, author of Membranes: Metaphors of Invasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, and Politics

"This book represents a most successful endeavor to write a history of the 'causal' since 1830, one that will certainly take pride of place not only in the literature on crime but also in the modern historiographic literature on how arguments are made and how they are validated over time."--Sander L. Gilman, author of Making the Body Beautiful

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File created: 7/7/2015

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