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Biological Discourses

The Language of Science and Literature Around 1900


Robert Craig and Ina Linge

The relationship between biological thought and literature, and between science and culture, has long been an area of interest by no means confined to literary studies. The Darwin Anniversary celebrations of 2009 added to this tradition, inspiring a variety of new publications on the cultural reception of Darwin and Darwinism. With a fresh scope that includes but also reaches beyond the «Darwinian» legacy, the essays in this volume explore the range and diversity of interactions between biological thought and literary writing in the period around 1900.

How did literature uniquely shape the constitution and communication of scientific ideas in the decades after Darwin? Did literary genres dangerously distort, or shed critical light upon, the biological theories with which they worked? And what were the ethical and social implications of those relationships? With these broad questions in mind, the contributors consider the biological embeddedness of human nature, perspectives on sexual desire, developments in racial thinking and its political exploitation, and poetic engagements with experimental psychology and zoology. They also range across different literary traditions, from Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, to Britain and the USA. Biological Discourses provides a rich cross-section of the contested relationship between literature and biological thought in fin-de-siècle and modernist cultures.

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Notes on Contributors


HEIKE BAUER is Senior Lecturer in English and Gender Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. She has published widely on literature and the history of sexuality, including two monographs, The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture (Philadelphia, PA 2017) and English Literary Sexology (Basingstoke 2009); a three-volume anthology of texts, Women and Cross-Dressing 1800–1930 (London 2006); and two edited collections, Queer 1950s: Rethinking Sexuality in the Postwar Years (co-edited with Matt Cook, Basingstoke 2012) and Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters Across the Modern World (Philadelphia 2015). She also works on contemporary queer, lesbian, and feminist writing and graphic memoirs. She has edited special journal issues on ‘Transnational Lesbian Culture’ (with Churnjeet Mahn), Journal of Lesbian Studies 18:3 (2014), and ‘Contemporary Comics by Jewish Women’ (with Andrea Greenbaum and Sarah Lightman), Studies in Comics 6:2 (2015).

ELENA BORELLI holds a PhD in Italian Literature from Rutgers University, USA, and specializes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Italian literature, with a focus on Giovanni Pascoli, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and the theme of desire in the Italian fin de siècle. Her book, Giovanni Pascoli, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and the Ethics of Desire: Between Action and Contemplation, was published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press in 2017. She was formerly Assistant Professor of Italian at the City University of New York, and currently she is working in Italy as a translator and a teacher at a private institution.

SARAH CAIN is College Lecturer and...

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