student profile: Ms Cindy Hodoba Eric


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Thesis work

Thesis title: Metamorphosis

Supervisors: Ofer GAL , Daniela HELBIG

Thesis abstract:

The geologist Charles Lyell stated that Robert Hooke was first to promote and publicise a history of the earth based on natural changes over time instead of civil history. Hooke’s novel attempts to forge a history of the earth by enforcing a sensual, spatial and temporal closeness between fragmented histories and myths of the deep past and ‘petrified bodies’, namely, fossils, reflect a 17th century shift in visuality and representation. This shift was instigated by a radical instrumentalisation of vision, making the invisible visible, changing practices of observation and experiment, and producing new objects of science. These visual sensitivities are prevalent in early modern studies of fossils, where various forms of representation were used to craft competing visual meanings from observations and experiments and constituted competing historical experiences. Via representational forms of fossils, naturalists and natural philosophers subjected sacred, civil and natural history to the investigative procedures of the New Science; in turn, these histories were used to support or reject fossil ontologies and to quell or enhance epistemological anxieties. Hooke’s leading and radical claims on fossils as re-presentations, spanning almost 40 years of his career, are buttressed by a new historicity. Juxtaposing his organic origins hypothesis for fossils with similar concepts proposed by, for example, the physico-theologian John Ray, Steno and Leibniz, as well as competing lapides sui generis hypotheses crafted by the likes of Martin Lister and Robert Plot, reveals the tensions, compromises, inversions and paradoxes in these object- and knowledge-making practices; and their role in the construction and failure of the first ‘modern’ natural history of the earth.

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