Female Transcendence: Charles Howard Hinton and Hyperspace Fiction

Issue: Vol 7, No 1: Summer 2016
Pages: 83-106
Author(s): Patricia Beesley (Newcastle University)
Citation: http://victoriannetwork.org/index.php/vn/article/view/74

Abstract

As far as nineteenth-century mathematician and writer Charles Howard Hinton was concerned, it was an unwillingness to explore beyond the boundaries of established epistemologies that prevented the conception of a fourth dimension or hyperspace. In this essay, I consider how Hinton employs the allegory of hyperspace to re-imagine women as transcendent. In the novellas, Stella and An Unfinished Communication (1895), he disavows not only a scientific epistemology that prevents a more expansive world view but also a gender ideology that constrains ideas of femininity. I argue that Hinton's radical re-imagining of the nature of the world, human consciousness and femininity leads him to create women who transcend a Victorian ideology that has defined them by their biology and the Hegelian sense of immanence in order to achieve higher consciousness. I draw comparisons between Hinton and New Woman novelists, who were writing at the same time, suggesting that both were engaged in re-imagining ideas of femininity and the kind of world women might occupy. But where nineteenth-century New Woman novelists anticipated individual transformation through a process of social and political change, Hinton envisaged social change as depending on an introspective, internal process of transcendence.



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