The traditional view holds that love and knowledge are only possible if a person can transcend the human—love is that which overcomes biological urges like lust, while knowledge is that which gets beyond self-interested perception. In the nineteenth century, when theories about anthropomorphism came to dominate, the traditional views of love and knowledge were exposed as incoherent. In "Morpho Eugenia," A.S. Byatt brilliantly dramatizes how these intellectual developments impacted the lives of a wide range of nineteenth-century characters—some sunk into nihilistic despair, some became dogmatic scientists, some became tortured existentialists, and some tried to build a new and more reasonable conception of love and knowledge. In my essay, I examine the necessary consequences the nineteenth-century’s anthropomorphic turn had on theories about knowledge and love. Put simply, Byatt suggests that the major shift in our theory of knowledge, while devastating for many, actually set the stage for political empowerment for many others.
John Hopkins University Press
Lackey, Michael. 2008. "A.S. Byatt's 'Morpho Eugenia': Prolegomena to Any Future Theory," College Literature 35.1: 128-147.