October 13, 2005

Darwin's Plots, Gillian Beer

Turns out I can't read this (excellent) summary of how Victorian literary language shaped, and was shaped by, Darwin's ideas and prose right now. I need to read too many science papers on ecophys and other evolutionary forces, and I can't read them while teasing apart their language for the inheritances from storytelling that Beer brings out so elegantly. The points of view are too close in their subject, and too far apart in their object.

One of the points early in the book is that Charles Darwin himself had difficulty finding language that didn't imply planning and intent where he didn't mean to imply it.

I recommend it to anyone who likes Victorian writers, though, especially late Victorian writers. I especially liked the connections to the Symbolists and the proto-Freudians and the general teeming, interconnected density of the Vicky view. Coleridge, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, all the gang.

I suspect that George Eliot's intersection with Darwinian themes was more austere and systematic, but I only skimmed the chapter on it.

Find in a Library

So wrote clew in History (19th c.).
And thus wrote others:
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