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Title: Authority, authorship, and Lamarckian self-fashioning in the works of Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Author: Gillott, David James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 8673
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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The Lamarckian thought of Samuel Butler (1835–1902) has been much observed in relation to his evolutionary works, but my thesis offers a wider ranging examination, and argues for the pervasiveness of Lamarckian ideas across the whole breadth of Butler’s varied oeuvre. In his intervention into evolutionary debate, Butler differentiated between Darwinian luck and Lamarckian cunning, and I show how this distinction informs his notions of authority and authorship, and how he employs Lamarckian concepts in his attempt to fashion for himself an authoritative position as a man of letters. Via an examination of two of his earliest works on evolution, Chapter 1 demonstrates how Butler satirically subverts the argument by analogy employed by theologians Bishop Butler and William Paley, as well as by Charles Darwin, in order to highlight the dangers of logical argument as a means of establishing authority. Chapter 2 extends this critique through a consideration of Butler’s more mature evolutionary works. These amount to a condemnation of what he believes to be the underhand means by which Darwin had sought to appropriate evolutionary theory as his own, without acknowledging the efforts of earlier evolutionists. Chapter 3 describes Butler’s developing epistemology through the lens of his theological writings. It concludes that his epistemological trajectory is best read as a ‘reconversion narrative’, in which reason is subordinated to faith, and which is a necessary consequence of his evolutionary theory. In Chapter 4 I argue that Butler’s writings on art constitute a ‘Lamarckian aesthetics’ that offers both a new reading of the Renaissance, as well as an optimistic alternative to ideas of fin-de-siècle cultural degeneration. Finally, in Chapter 5 I show how Butler’s last works are the culmination of his self-fashioning as he sought to position himself favourably for posterity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available