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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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Echoes of the Mid-19th-Century Spiritual Crisis in Selected Contemporary Texts Referencing Charles Darwin


Our turn-of-the-millennium culture seems to attach great importance to Charles Darwin’s works and biography. For instance, the debut of the ‘Darwin online’ project in October 2006 proved a gigantic media event. On the day of its inauguration this website, which offers free access to the enormous Darwinian archives, was headline news: it is estimated that some 400 million people learned of the debut, and several million tried to log on in the first forty-eight hours. Next, over the last forty years more than thirty actors have impersonated Darwin in a number of popular-science TV series and feature films, to say nothing of those who played Darwin on stage, most prominently in the numerous productions of the Time Will Tell music hall. What is more, new biographies and biographical novels devoted to the Darwins continue to be written and published, and so are books presenting Darwin’s theories (and those of his followers) to non-scientific readers. Finally, reference to Darwin is a must in the recent histories of the English novel and of 19th-century British society, as we see with the recurrent thesis that it is through the spread of Darwin’s ideas in the mid-19th century that Britain gradually lost faith in the literal truth of the Bible.

My aim in this chapter is to discuss the alleged relationship of Darwin to the mid-19th-century spiritual crisis as it is depicted in recent fiction and non-fiction. After a short historical introduction based on the books by Michael Ruse, Asa...

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