For today’s class, we looked at the conclusion, or what really feels like the firework finale, of On the Origin of Species. Whereas the previous 480 pages are carefully, exhaustively, even at times hesitantly proposing natural selection and descent with modification, the conclusion changes in tone. Confident and assertive, the Darwin in the last chapter … More DARWIN: EQUAL PARTS PREACHER, PROPHET, AND PROFESSOR
We have now finished the class’s first segment that looked at what Darwin proposed in On the Origin of Species. For the next few weeks, we are discussing the historical context and public reception of those ideas. Our class on Thursday discussed poems responding to Darwin’s theories in some way. The poems included: “Mutability” and … More MOVING INTO CONTEXT AND RECEPTION
For Tuesday’s class, Dr. Richard England, Dean of the Honors College, guest lectured about the religious reaction to Darwin’s work in the years following Origin’s 1859 publication. His point was not what you’d expect. Contrary to the current pugilistic tenor that one must swiftly choose between God or Darwin, the late 19th century offered a … More ONLY TWO OPTIONS?
WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ALICE AND DARWIN? When I handed out today’s reading, which was selections from Alice in Wonderland, I asked the class to do two things: read it–and come up with an hypothesis as to why we were reading it. Published just six years after Origins, it’s hard to imagine that the kerfuffle … More WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ALICE AND DARWIN?
Mrs. Darwin 7 April 1852. Went to the Zoo. I said to him— Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you. By Carol Ann Duffy from her Selected Poems. (It’s midterms. We could all use a little levity.)
Today, Dr. Fritz began talking about a dark side effect of Origins—and that is the idea of social Darwinism. Coined in the late 19th century, this term describes the idea that humans compete to survive, similar to plants and animals. Misunderstanding Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest,” social Darwinists rationalize racism, imperialism, and the … More THE UGLY SIDE: SOCIAL DARWINISTS
Dr. Malgorzata J. Rymsza-Pawlowska, a cultural historian who specializes in the 19th and 20th centuries, visited class on Thursday to discuss social Darwinism, eugenics, and scientific racism. An energetic and engaging speaker, Dr. Rymsza-Pawlowska first showed us pictures of Chicago’s waterfront, one from 1820 and one from 1870 to remind us that Darwin’s publications coincided … More INDUSTRIALIZATION AND DARWIN