Edited By Kjerstin Aukrust
The emergence of the microscope in Europe during the early seventeenth century marked the beginning of a scientific revolution whereby the world’s smallest creatures, “microfaunae” such as the microbe, finally became visible. At the time, the microscope was employed to challenge a scalar anthropocentrism that placed inordinate value on the lives and bodies of larger animals at the expense of nature’s minutiae. In his essay on the cultural history of microfaunae in seven- teenth-century Europe, which opens this book, Adam Dodd argues that in less than 100 years after the invention of the microscope, what can be referred to as “the microscopic gaze” had seriously and permanently altered our perception of all nonhuman animals: The inherent “greatness” of the biggest creatures was no longer naturally given, nor was the “obvious” insignificance of the smallest crea- tures to be taken as a certainty. Thus, the very ways in which cultural value, and its attendant aesthetics, was assigned to microfaunae were significantly altered. In this anthology, Dodd’s analysis marks the first example of how cultural and aesthetic values are assigned within different humanities fields. Each of the thirteen essays in this volume, which is divided into five parts, represents a unique “microscopic gaze” into different cultural phenomena, all chosen to shed light on issues related to the assignment of values. Authors of chapters in part one discuss both the aesthetic and the cultural value of science: After Adam Dodd’s introduction to the cultural history of microfaunae in seventeenth-century Europe, Anja Johansen takes...
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