Discoveries in ‘The Lost World’ « Z W »

1. Introduction: Investigating Discoveries

The creative powers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle bore him beyond his substantial contributions to detective fiction. In The Lost World he evokes an imaginative
realm in the midst of untamed nature, rich as ever in details and secretive connections, curiosities and wonders.

Surprisingly, this fiction likewise managed to ‘come alive’, even though the play with realities is far more complex in this instance. This is not only due to the set of would-be photographs and maps included in an early original edition (cf. R.D. Batory / A.S. Sarjant, 1989,16) nor mainly to the attentive adaptation of historical and intellectual influences (cf. Chapter 3.2). In this novel, veracity itself is a core issue, as the truth behind the virtually incredible claims of an unusual professor is to be unravelled.

Discoveries, science and its quest for truth are therefore at the centre of the narrative. Moreover, The Lost World is deeply rooted in the intellectual life of its time: the secluded plateau with its population of ancient and alien creatures owes most of its fascination to two of the most innovative branches of late Victorian thought: geology and (evolutionary) natural history. Meanwhile, the act of discovering is in itself complex: it depends on various preconditions, bears multiple philosophical implications and induces lasting effects. To understand how this is conceived in the novel will be the object of this paper.

The topic suggests a two-fold approach: in a first step, the views set forth in the text are to be revealed through close interpretation. These assertions will then be
evaluated against their historical background. Although released in 1912, the novel will be basically treated as a (late) Victorian effort in this survey. The fuzziness inherent in all historical categorisation, as well as the author’s provenience and numerous strong interdependencies appear to justify this.

The questions at hand require a high level of abstraction, so that the novel’s ingenious plotting and most of its delightful details remain unattended. This may
seem an arid treatment of a book aiming at the unspoiled imagination. Nevertheless, it grants rewarding insights.

Author's Logo · Author: Paul - Christoph Trüper, 2005  - 2008.
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