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Theses Bachelor's

“Our Case Is Not Complete”: Sherlock Holmes, Victorian Spiritualism, and the Scientific Use of the Imagination

Ashe, Nathan

In this essay, I examine Conan Doyle’s Spiritualist works in relation to his Sherlock Holmes canon. I argue that these two bodies of work share an underlying philosophy, characterized by a belief in an objective truth that underlies reality, and creates an impression on the physical world. I further examine the epistemology of these works, focusing on the impact of the reconstructive sciences of archaeology, paleontology, and forensics on Sherlock Holmes and the Spiritualist canon. Conan Doyle’s works recognize that these sciences necessarily rely on imagination, which he emulates rather than condemns. In doing so, Conan Doyle suggests that the use of imagination is necessary in order to bridge the gap between the material world and the objective truth that underlies it. In both these bodies of work, therefore, imagination is held to have a unique and epistemologically valid access to truth. When an investigator relies upon his imaginative faculties he can not only accurately reconstruct the past, but also channel other people—an ability that Holmes uses in order to solve cases by apprehending criminals.

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More Information

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Viswanathan, Gauri
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
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