Monday, March 18, 2024

Pg. 99: Kristin M. Girten's "Sensitive Witnesses"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sensitive Witnesses: Feminist Materialism in the British Enlightenment by Kristin M. Girten.

About the book, from the publisher:
Kristin M. Girten tells a new story of feminist knowledge-making in the Enlightenment era by exploring the British female philosophers who asserted their authority through the celebration of profoundly embodied observations, experiences, and experiments. This book explores the feminist materialist practice of sensitive witnessing, establishing an alternate history of the emergence of the scientific method in the eighteenth century. Francis Bacon and other male natural philosophers regularly downplayed the embodied nature of their observations. They presented themselves as modest witnesses, detached from their environment and entitled to the domination and exploitation of it. In contrast, the author-philosophers that Girten takes up asserted themselves as intimately entangled with matter—boldly embracing their perceived close association with the material world as women. Girten shows how Lucy Hutchinson, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, and Charlotte Smith took inspiration from materialist principles to challenge widely accepted "modest" conventions for practicing and communicating philosophy. Forerunners of the feminist materialism of today, these thinkers recognized the kinship of human and nonhuman nature and suggested a more accessible, inclusive version of science. Girten persuasively argues that our understanding of Enlightenment thought must take into account these sensitive witnesses' visions of an alternative scientific method informed by profound closeness with the natural world.
Learn more about Sensitive Witnesses at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Sensitive Witnesses.

--Marshal Zeringue