Reading and Reception Seminars: Professor Alice Jenkins

Publication date: Apr 29, 2014 03:17 PM

Start: May 06, 2014 05:30 PM
End: May 06, 2014 07:30 PM

Location: G24, Foster Court, Malet Place, UCL, London, WC1E 6BT

‘Eternal and unchangeable’?: Victorian anti-reception of Euclid

This paper considers Victorian accounts of how to read, use and respond to Euclid’s Elements, a text in which enormous cultural prestige was invested and which generated sharp controversy and polemic through the nineteenth century.

Though the Elements played a key role in the period’s classicism, and enjoyed an extraordinary status as an ancient text of continuing practical use in science, the focus of this paper will be less on the history of the text itself than on what was at stake in the often bitter and ad hominem disputes about how it should be approached. I will propose that Victorian writing about the Elements is a useful case study in the anti-reception of classical and scientific texts.


Alice Jenkins is Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture at the University of Glasgow.  Her research focuses mainly on the emergence of the knowledge economy in the first half of the nineteenth century, and her current monograph projects investigate the cultural history of Euclidean geometry, and the ideal of the unity of knowledge, in Britain in this period.  She is the author of Space and the ‘March of Mind’: Literature and the Physical Sciences in Britain, 1815-1850, the editor of Michael Faraday’s ‘Mental Exercises’: An Artisan Essay-Circle in Regency London, and has published articles on various aspects of literature and science, and literature and mathematics. ​