Darwin and Literature

Darwin and Literature

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Although their vocabularies differ, biologists, biblical authors, and playwrights describe the paradox that Charles Darwin outlines in The Origin of Species (1859) when he observed the coexistence of a drive for permanence and a contrasting capacity to modify, deviate from, or transform established identities. The Torah; Books of Ecclesiastes, Job, and Matthew; and plays by Shakespeare, O'Neill, and Beckett embody a convergence of constancy and change. Their principle literary mechanisms-their challenge-response narrative design, rhetorical repetitions, and metaphorical associations-translate a biological contradiction into a moral dilemma that leads to recurring Darwinian outcomes. An evolutionary process becomes the template for the progressions and problems of belief systems transmitted by masterpieces of Western literature. Surprisingly, most biblical writing celebrates an outcome entirely consonant with the narratives of evolution. This study deals primarily with characters and their communities in biblical and tragic texts who toil mightily, usually with limited success, to integrate the certainty of inherited dogma with the originality of useful change. Through this study, the author concludes that Darwin's insight can expand an understanding of literature, and literary analysis will support Darwin's insight.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 188 pages
  • 157.48 x 231.14 x 17.78mm | 408.23g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739185322
  • 9780739185322

About Leonard Moss

Leonard Moss has written books on Arthur Miller, Joseph Conrad, literature and evolution, and tragedy and philosophy. He edited the journal of the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association in Providence from 1998 to 2004.show more

Table of contents

Contents Acknowledgments Introduction Part I: Biblical Adaptation and Dysfunction 1. The Darwinian Narrative 2. The Hebrew Origin of Species 3. Departures from Orthodoxy 4. The Adaptation According to Matthew Part II: Tragic Transformation 5. Shakespeare's Suspended Heroes 6. The O'Neill Variation 7. Beckett: Constancy, Flux, and Innovation Conclusion Notes A Bibliographical Guide to Recent Evolutionary Theory Index About the Authorshow more