What is a Dog? Animal Experiments and Animal Novels
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The lines quoted above come from Ivan Turgenev’s famous novel Fathers and Sons, published in 1861, but describing a series of events set in the year 1859, when Charles Darwin published his scientific best-seller. As was indicated in Chapter 3, Darwin’s Origin of Species entails a triumph of a realistic view on nature over the (then dominant) romantic view. The same tendency towards realism was omnipresent in Melville’s whaling novel – notably in the relentless descriptions of the violence of whaling as an “animal practice” – and it is precisely this shift from romanticism to realism that is at the heart of Turgenev’s novel as well.
The book sets out to analyze a generation conflict. The “fathers”, notably Nikolai Kirsanov and his brother Pavel, are the romanticists: Russian landlords who value art, culture, French and English novels, good manners, in short: an aesthetic and educated, but rather idle and melancholy lifestyle. In their youth, they visited the university, not in order to become physicians or scientists, but in order to be educated as “gentlemen”. The new generation of the realists, however, is represented by Nikolai Kirsanov’s son Arcady (a science student at the university of St. Petersburg), but especially by his friend Bazarov, a young and ambitious physician who is interested in natural science, notably physiology and chemistry.
KeywordsResearch Animal Digestive Gland Literary Experiment Literary Document Animal Practice
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