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Evolutionary Fictions

ENGL 493.640
instructor(s):
R 5:30-8:30

The capacious explanatory power of the concept of evolution has led us to imagine contradictory visions of the world. These visions include abundant productivity and irretrievable loss; incremental alteration and catastrophic change; competitive and cooperative social arrangements; stunning beauty and grotesque horror; elegant design and chaos. To explore these contradictions, we will read some of Darwin's writing, a series of fictions that contain, resist, or reinterpret evolutionary theory to the present time, and commentaries on the cultural uses of evolution by writers such as Stephen Jay Gould and Gillian Beer. The fictions we read will include responses to Darwin in literary realism and naturalism and in fantasy. Fiction writers are likely to be London, Crane, Edith Wharton, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, H. G. Wells, Hilary Mantel (A Climate of Change) or Jenny Diski (Monkey's Uncle).