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Literature After Darwin: Human Beasts in Western Fiction by V. Richter

By V. Richter

What makes us human? the place is the restrict among human and animal? those are questions that hang-out post-Darwinian literature. overlaying fiction from Kipling to Kafka, this research bargains a traditionally embedded research of anthropological nervousness within the interval among the ebook of the beginning of Species and the start of the second one global battle.

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Extra info for Literature After Darwin: Human Beasts in Western Fiction 1859-1939 (Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture)

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55 Accordingly, the discovery of the ambiguous nature of the freshwater polyp Hydra by the naturalist Abraham Trembley in 1740 was hailed as a sign of the completeness of the chain of being. Earlier in the century, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek had classified the polyp as a plant, but Trembley observed animal characteristics like the powers of locomotion, contraction and extension, and the ability to catch and digest prey. 56 In the spatial system of eighteenth-century natural history, the idea of connection signalled precisely the opposite of disruption and change.

Com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromsoe - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-05 32 Darwin offered a better solution than others, but he left many problems unsolved, consequently opening a new field for scientific debate. e. the established scientific institutions and practices. ’47 Peter Bowler corroborates the estimate that, although the transition from a static to a dynamic world view connected with evolution constituted ‘a major conceptual revolution’,48 the initial impact of Darwinism was limited and some of the most radical aspects of his thinking were appreciated only belatedly.

The emergence of humankind postdated the first appearance of other species considerably. The greatest difference between Chambers’s hypothesis and the theory Darwin was working on simultaneously consists in the former’s endorsement of teleology. Chambers proposed a progressivist and predetermined model of evolution: directed by divine law, each species develops from ‘the simplest and most primitive type […] to the type next above it […] and so on to the very highest’ (VNH 222). All species move in unison towards a perfected stage so that, once Homo sapiens will have evolved into the superhuman beings of the future, chimpanzees will be able to occupy the vacated place.

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