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Title: Ineradicable humanity : literary responses to Darwin in Zola, Hardy, and the utopian novel
Author: Sreenan, Niall
ISNI:       0000 0004 7659 5880
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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This dissertation is a comparative study of the evolutionary thought of Charles Darwin and a constellation of novels from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries which examines how these works respond to and explore the existential death blow delivered to humanity by Darwin's theory of evolution. In doing so, this work joins a vibrant discursive field in literary criticism about the relationship between Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and literature, both in the nineteenth century and beyond. The dominant methodology in this field seeks to illuminate the historical and discursive context in which literary culture and Darwinian science co-existed and focuses on the period contemporaneous with and immediately after the emergence of Darwinian evolutionary science. Building on this methodology, I argue that, as well as recognising the intertextual and historical cross-correspondences between literary writing and Darwin's theories, it is important and critically fruitful to consider the ways that literary writing supplements Darwin's thought, submitting it to a range of interrogations, questions, complications, and transformations. I explore how works by Émile Zola stage an inquiry into the relation between scientific objectivity and art and wonder about the possibility of transcending the biological determinism of natural selection; how two works by Thomas Hardy respond to the nihilism of an evolutionary cosmology with a radical vision of Darwinian sexual selection; and how Utopian novels by Samuel Butler, Aldous Huxley, and Michel Houellebecq interrogate the question of individual sovereignty and perfection under rigorous Darwinian materialist law. Throughout these chapters, I work in dialogue with a number of key concepts from critical theory, with a particular focus on the work of Gilles Deleuze. Ultimately, I argue that in the encounter between literature, Darwin's thought, and philosophy, creative modes of understanding Darwin's thought are possible - which re-affirm literature's capacity to supplement scientific thought and the life of humanity itself.
Supervisor: Mathews, T. ; Shaffer, E. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available