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Charles Darwin’s Looking Glass

The Theory of Evolution and the Life of its Author in Contemporary British Fiction and Non-Fiction


Dominika Oramus

The book offers a comparative analysis of diverse Darwinism-inspired discourses such as post-modern novels, science fiction, popular science and nature films. Analysing the uses of the evolutionary discourse in recent literature and films, the study demonstrates how natural science influences the contemporary humanities and how literary conventions are used to make scientific and popular-science texts intelligible and attractive. Charles Darwin’s Looking Glass shows how and why today’s culture gazes upon the myth of Darwin, his theory, and his life in order to find its own reflection.
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Depictions of Emma Darwin in Recent British Non-Fiction


The life and works of Charles Darwin have been the subject of numerous essays written in the last 150 years. Depicting virtually every moment of the Victorian naturalist’s eventful life are his own journal and Autobiography, the diaries and letters of his children, friends, and colleagues, scholarly and popular biographies, and, in the last half a century, feature films and popular science TV series. A surge of new publications on the subject of Darwin flooded the book market in 2009, the Year of Darwin. Two new feature films based on the records of his family life added further detail to the picture of Darwin as represented in mass culture, while the darwin online project freely provides Internet users with a vast amount of useful material.

The explanation for this enormous popularity is far beyond the scope of this paper, though a fair guess would be that it is because Darwin is universally acknowledged as the creator of the modern scientific paradigm46, and in the contemporary world science is the single most important method of generating knowledge about reality. Therefore, in the collective imagination Darwin has become one of the founders of modern civilization and so he is interesting. Moreover, although science in modern civilization is enormously successful, it does not transcend culture: quite the opposite – our culture bends science to its own purposes and makes free use of its paragons to create, sell, and disperse stories. Books and films ‘translate’ Darwin’s life and the Darwinian oeuvre...

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