Jules Verne Rediscovered: Didacticism and the Scientific Novel

Jules Verne Rediscovered: Didacticism and the Scientific Novel

Jules Verne Rediscovered: Didacticism and the Scientific Novel

Jules Verne Rediscovered: Didacticism and the Scientific Novel

Synopsis

"This brilliant study of Verne's three cycles (1850-62, 1862-86, 1886-1916) analyzes the works from a biographical, sociohistorical, ideological, and narratological point of view. With a deep focus on Verne's pedagogical slant, Evans demonstrates convincingly the parallels between the French author's aim to de-alienate' science and his aim to valorize learning, knowledge, and reading (his heroes conquer more knowledge for themselves and for the world)." Choice

Excerpt

Despite the recent efforts of a small number of university scholars, the current literary reputation of Jules Verne in America continues to be a patchwork of myth and error. Few people have read his actual texts, yet almost everyone has heard of him. And opinions rarely vary. He is known as the nineteenth-century inventor of the popular literary genre called "Science Fiction," or SF for short. He is believed to be a writer whose novels deal almost exclusively with forecasting the future: an exotic world of submarines, space travel to distant planets, and complex technological devices undreamed of during Verne's own time. As such, he is generally hailed as a scientific visionary, a prophet of things to come. Yet, ironically, his works themselves are most often dismissed as adolescent adventure stories: action-packed yarns about intrepid heroes exploring far-flung regions of Earth and Space. Verne's books are said to reflect their author's unreserved enthusiasm for technological progress and the many benefits such scientific advances would someday bestow on humanity. But they are also thought of as not really being literary in the true sense of the word--first, because he wrote primarily for children, and second because his novels are intellectually shallow, stylistically poor, and somewhat comparable to westerns or mysteries, in other words, good reading for escapism but not at all appropriate for formal academic study.

But do we really know Jules Verne? For example, each and every one of the preceding statements is false. They are part of a continuing misunderstanding of this author that, in America at least, has effectively precluded any serious study of his works. Through bad translations, Hollywood cinema, university snobbism, and the familiar pigeonholing effect of literary histories, Verne's reputation has not evolved here since the early years of the twentieth century when he was first dubbed the "father of SF. . . ."

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