“Experimentation or Exploitation? The investigations of David Ferrier, Dr. Benjulia, and Dr. Seward”, by Valerie Pedlar, explores the work of David Ferrier in the context of the vivisection movement and different works of literature. Pedlar looks at the different ways in which Collins evokes the vivisection debate in his novel Heart and Science. She focuses on the implications of a piece of polemic cast in literary form such as this and how Collins utilizes his characters and the contrast between good and evil to further his antivivisection stance. Pedlar states that The Cruelty to Animals Act, though it stipulated that “animals should be anaesthetized except in certain specified circumstances” did not affect the way vivisectionist conducted their experiments (170). This leads to literature such as Heart and Science, where the characters are used as a way to show that vivisection, and in many ways scientists, are evil, even monstrous. Pedlar also brings in the work of Seward and Dracula, as another work which involves controversial topics regarding such experimentation. I think some of the points that Pedlar beings up would be interesting to investigate further. Her discussion of Dr. Benjulia and his “foreignness,” as well as Collins refusal to go into the experimental laboratory, only add to the notion that there must be divide between heart (love) and science (evil/dark).
“Love and Vivisection: Wilkie Collins’s Experiment in Heart and Science” by Jessica Straley highlights the antivivisection argument that Collins evokes in his novel. What was particularly interesting to me about this article is how Straley poses her first question: “Like an autopsy, Sensation fiction [like that of Heart and Science] was drawn from the exposed bowels of an eviscerated social body…If to write Sensation fiction is to dissect and to vivisect, then an antivivisection Sensation novel is a contradictory enterprise. How then does Collins work within a genre that figuratively commits the very crime his plot condemns?” (350-351). I had not previously thought of the genre, and the implications that writing about vivisection as Collins does, within such a genre would have. Straley also claims that Heart and Science, for an antivivisection literary work, is especially delicate. Collins, instead of using the grisly details, “eschews vivisection in theme and style.” What is especially interesting about this article is that it focuses on not just the implications of using characters to embody beliefs, but the actual literary techniques that were used (for example, Straley mentions how the lack of inviting us, the readers, into the laboratories, is to focus our attention on “how literature incites its own victimizing, and sanctifying, vibrations”). Straley invites us to look at the relationship between the reader and the work.
In her Essay Heart, Science, and Regulation: Victorian Antivivisection Discourse and the Human, Sara Murphy discusses the implications that vivisection has within not just the scientific community but whole cultures. The debates surrounding vivisections bring up questions regarding the line between humans and animals, and what is moral and what is an abuse of power. Murphy states that “while modern law supposes a subject that is autonomous, fully conscious and rational, capable therefore of choosing and willing actions for which it will be then responsible” the Cruelty to Animals Acts of 1876 proposes ways in which such regulations may complicate the conventional views. Most notably, the debate illuminates the relationship between science, law and literature and how the three are utilized as means of argument, working both to complicate and help understand certain positions and ethical questions regarding vivisections. She examines the argument Collins makes in the novel Heart and Science, as it is “a scene of law and literature that is suggestive of the intricate crossings of these two disciplines at a critical moment in our biopolitical history.” When discussing Laura Otis’s argument that Collins is essentially, in a way, retrying David Ferrier through the novel, Murphy states that to read the novel in such a way as this, “evoke[s] that thread of recent discourse on law and literature that has argued that novels sustain and cultivate a certain humanist sentiment in the face of modern law” and that this is not what she intends. One aspect which I found interesting was in regards to Benjulia representing a sort of national identity crisis. The evil doctor who practices vivisections, was described as having foreign features, “’the straight black hair of an American Indian,’” though he is never associated with a specific country or place, it is just implied that he is not from England. Thus, as Murphy brings points out, he begins to represent the “otherness within national identity, an otherness presumably liberated by the habitual practice of cruelty.” Not only does the book illuminate how the debate over vivisections affect cultures and cultural identities, but it also forces the idea that with cruelty to animals comes cruelty to humans, i.e., habitual cruelty.
It’s hard to decide which article I will most likely choose as all three raise interesting points about the implications of the antivivisection debate and Collin’s use of literature as an argument against it. That being said, I think either Essay Heart, Science, and Regulation: Victorian Antivivisection Discourse and the Human by Sara Murphy or Love and Vivisection: Wilkie Collins’s Experiment in Heart and Science” by Jessica Straley would be good essays to use.