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Title: Sexual plots in Charles Darwin and George Eliot : evolution and manliness in 'Adam Bede' and 'The Mill on the Floss'
Author: Da Silva, Sara Graça
ISNI:       0000 0004 2675 8960
Awarding Body: University of Keele
Current Institution: Keele University
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis explores the intersections between George Eliot's and Charles Darwin's fictional and scientific styles whilst demonstrating that Eliot and Darwin are both novelistic scientists and scientific novelists. By analysing their representation of masculinity, in particular masculine subjectivity, I argue that literature and science are first and foremost modes of expression, based on internal perceptions and projections, themselves variable, and liable to external influences. It is precisely the extent of these influences that determines the degree of feminine and masculine performativity. Close readings of Eliot's and Darwin's works ultimately reveal a complex and controversial communication, whilst uncovering two authors self-consciously aware of the importance of style, form, and the staging of visual representations. Although the idea that scientific and literary texts are influenced by stereotyped visions of masculinity and femininity is not a new one, it is one that is still very much under debate. My contribution to this particular conundrum consists of the examination of the ambiguity surrounding the representations of masculinity, not only within the various evolutionary strands leading to the formulation of Darwin's own theory of sexual selection, but also in Eliot's Adam Bede (1859) and the Mill on the Floss (1860). As authors such as Ludmilla Jordanova have acknowledged, although researchers have always explored themes analogous to both fields, their investigation was often 'predicated on the idea that literature borrowed from and popularised science'. Instead, I suggest that science was itself influenced by Victorian ideals about masculinity. Literary and scientific texts are, after all, forms of cultural discourse: in their essence both creative and productive, and thus, eternally changing. Chapter One provides a brief history of sexual selection within the various evolutionary strands leading to Darwin's own formulation of the theory in the Origin (1859), and later, in greater depth, in the Descent (1871). Chapter Two investigates Eliot's involvement in the philological and evolutionary debates of her time, which were further linked to the theory of visuality. It illustrates how Eliot's interpretive method, akin to Darwin's, is based on powerful visual representations, and how these are related to questions of (un)consciousness and performance. Chapter Three explores the large and still relatively unexplored 'dark continent' within men's studies. It pays special attention to Victorian men's emotional impulses by attesting to their desire for domestic and fatherly identities. Chapter Four uncovers the psychological catalysts of gender performances whilst investigating the affinities between theatricality, evolution, and plotting. Finally, Chapter Five establishes nature as the evolutionary stage for the unfolding of human dramas, in particular masculine ones.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available