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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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Darwin’s Problem with Human Ancestry as Reflected in Recent Fiction


Darwin: A Life in Science by Michael White and John Gribbin, one of the best recent biographies of Charles Darwin, aims at presenting Darwin’s theories and ideas rather than his private life and personality. The book begins with a paragraph explaining the never-ending popularity of Darwinism and the huge amount of new books and films devoted to Darwinian themes that appear every year. Gribbin and White’s answer to the question why does the twenty-first century so adore Darwin? is that in our age of mass culture Darwin alone offers us a comprehensive, universal theory that can be easily summarized and made into a story. Its simplified versions may be applied to explain a vast range of phenomena concerning nature, natural history, and the workings of the Universe to non-specialists and even to children. Darwinism is a paradigm everybody refers to when they are explaining the ways of nature: from how the biosphere came into existence to how humans evolved; from the rivalry between better and worse adapted species, to the rivalry between better and worse adapted cells. White and Gribbin claim that other paradigms of science available today – say, Newtonian and Einsteinian – are too difficult to grasp, too abstract, and too exclusive for contemporary egalitarian culture.

White and Gribbin wrote about Darwin in the late 90s; fifty years earlier William Irvine had addressed the issue of Darwinism as contrasted to more abstract theories in his then influential joint biography of Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley entitled...

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