Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction

Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction

Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction

Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction

Synopsis

Gillian Beer's landmark book demonstrates how Darwin overturned fundamental cultural assumptions in his narratives, how George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and other writers pursued and resisted their contradictory implications, and how the stories he produced about natural selection and the struggle for life now underpin our culture. This second edition incorporates a new preface by the author and a foreword by the distinguished American scholar George Levine.

Excerpt

Early in Darwin's Plots, Gillian Beer argues that On the Origin of Species is 'one of the most extraordinary examples of a work which included more than the maker of it at the time knew, despite all that he did know'. With these words Professor Beer initiated an enterprise that itself probably included more than she knew, despite all that she did know – which, to say the least, was a lot. For the book remains as alive and important now as it was when it appeared in 1983, on the first crest of the booming 'Darwin Industry', which has in the past fifteen years expanded even beyond the imagination of those who already understood how enormously rich and fertile Darwin's thought remained. Unlike most great scientists of the past, whose work has been absorbed by science (and often by culture) and marked as a brilliant stage toward later developments, Darwin remains strangely and almost charismatically alive – he 'has grown younger in recent years', says Professor Beer – and evolutionary biology remains an active force in science and beyond.

Darwin's Plots identifies a 'remnant of the mythical' in his arguments, a not quite complete fit 'between material and theory', a willingness to fall back on 'unknown laws', a passion for multiplicity and for aberrations. in teaching us how Darwin's metaphors and language work, by refusing any simple placement of his thought, either historical or philosophical, Professor Beer in effect predicted his continuing power to fertilise and disturb.

Darwin's name long ago entered the language to mark off a dog-eatdog, cruelly competitive world. But, as Beer demonstrates, Darwin's language had shown him as much a believer in cooperation and what Kropotkin called 'mutual aid' as in ruthless competition. Beyond the popular imagination, up through the continuing human interest of the Beagle voyage and the continuing worry over the religious implications of evolutionary theory, the sustained interest of scholars and scientists . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.