When we think about the factors that led to the creation of the novel as a literary form in English, we might not think of the rise and institutionalization of experimental science. Yet the chartering of the Royal Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge in 1662 had a profound impact on what novels and novelistic fiction would become in the 17th and 18th centuries, the formative years of the novel as we know it.  This talk will address two important origin stories in Enlightenment history: the origins of the Royal Society and the origins of the novel.  But it will also explain how these two origin stories overlap in telling ways that would change the histories of science and literature forever.

Aaron Hanlon’s ​most recent ​​research​ focuses on how we organize knowledge,​ how the domains of reality and fiction interact in the novel, and how science writing and the novel mutually construct our ideas of what we know and how we know it.  His first book (in progress), “The Politics of Quixotism,” is a history of British and American exceptionalism traced through the popular figure of Don Quixote in the eighteenth century.  In addition to numerous journal articles on literature, science, and political theory, Aaron writes for broader audiences at The New RepublicThe New York TimesThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and others.

  • Nullius in Verba December 12, 2017 cmajgaarProfessor Hanlon opened his presentation by making a remark about the structure of our campus. Facing Miller Library from the bottom of the hill, humanities studies take place on one’s ...
  • How do we define a new paradigm in Art November 6, 2017 cmhall20As a die-hard humanities academic, I was overjoyed to see the familiar face of an English professor standing at the lectern for this week. Though I have never studied the ...
  • The Elite Society? October 23, 2017 Bryan AndatiEnglish professor Aaron Hanlon separated his lecture and discussed the origins of the Novel and The Royal Society.  The latter captivated me the most.  The Royal Society of London was ...
  • Altering the Acceptance of Truth October 22, 2017 srkohliDavid Bercovici, an esteemed professor and geophysicist, discussed with both our afternoon section and evening seminar the fine details (well, maybe only detailed to us) of the Big Bang, dark ...
  • From scientific revolution to the interdisciplinary knowledge October 11, 2017 Anna YuLast Tuesday in class, we discussed the scientific revolution from the 16th century to the 18th century. Later in the evening, we had Professor Aaron Hanlon talked about the origins ...
  • The Royal Society and Cavendish October 10, 2017 amcola20Throughout the reading and the lecture, I was extremely interested in learning more about Margaret Cavendish and her accomplishments as a women in science during this time as well as ...
  • Origin October 3rd. October 10, 2017 Scarlet HolvenstotThis week our origins lecture discussed the Royal Society and the Origins of the novel. The discussion started with questioning the term “Liberal Arts”. The original phrase was “The liberal ...
  • Thoughts on the Organization of Knowledge October 10, 2017 Jonathan TaylorIf I remember correctly, it’s Lewis Gordon who writes a good number of articles about how we interact with knowledge as a society. He takes particular interest in the division ...
  • Abbreviations of Modern Science October 10, 2017 Walker GriggsA few words of Aaron Hanlon surrounding the origin of novels really stuck with me. The first being that early 17th century novels made a significant effort to simplify names ...
  • The Origin of Interdisciplinary Thought October 10, 2017 Sarah TaftIn his talk last Tuesday, Colby’s very own Professor Aaron Hanlon discussed both the origin of the Royal Society and the origin of the Novel. Throughout his explanation, Professor Hanlon ...