Beth Mills

Discipline: English

Project Summary

Thesis title: 'Grant Allen: Knowledge, Evidence, and the Victorian Man of Science'

My thesis is a literary and historical study into the work of Grant Allen (1848-1899), a late-Victorian writer of popular science and fiction, focusing on notions of scientific identity and the attainment and circulation of knowledge. Allen was widely recognised for his extensive knowledge of science and his ability to communicate complex notions to general audiences, but his lack of formal training and occupation as a popular writer placed him at the margins of professional science.

I examine the strategies by which Allen, an interdisciplinary figure, disseminated scientific ideas while seeking to establish himself as an authoritative voice in science. This aspiration involved challenging false information in the periodical press. Further, I consider the interplay between scientific and literary genres, and analyse his representations of scientific characters, juxtaposing epistemologies, and the ways in which knowledge is acquired and sanctioned in his short stories and detective narratives.

Supervisory Team

I am supervised by Professor Angelique Richardson at the University of Exeter and Professor Andrew Mangham at the University of Reading.

Wider Research Interests

Victorian culture (mid-late nineteenth century in particular); Victorian literature and science; Victorian popular literature, especially short stories (including scientific romances) and crime/detective fiction; Victorian periodical studies; media and misrepresentation; media and the construction of knowledge; Grant Allen; digital humanities.

Authored Publications/Reports

Beth Mills (July 2021) “Weird and fantastic realism”: Science and Stories in the Work of Grant Allen, Victorian Popular Fictions Journal, vol. 3, no. 1 , 140-154