Presentation on theme: "Thoreau’s extravagance: I fear only lest my expressions may not be extravagant enough,—may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of our ordinary."— Presentation transcript:
Thoreau’s extravagance: I fear only lest my expressions may not be extravagant enough,—may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of our ordinary insight and faith, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced. I desire to speak somewhere without bounds, in order that I may attain to an expression in some degree adequate to truth of which I have been convinced. From a man in a waking moment, to men in their waking moments. Wandering toward the more distant boundaries of a wider pasture. - Journal, 1854
Darwin reading for Thursday: Editor’s introduction to book (xv- lii) Darwin’s introduction (11-15) Chapter III, Struggle for Existence (63-79) Chapter IV, Natural Selection, first 5 paragraphs of chapter (80-84), take a look at the diagram in the middle of the chapter (112-113), and read the last section of chapter called “Summary of Chapter” (121-124); ---------- Recapitulation and Conclusion (401-410; 416- 427)
“An Entangled Bank” Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species
Brief Timeline of 19 th c. Natural History and Nature Writing 1801-1802: major publications by Lamarck 1830-1833 – Lyell’s Principles of Geology 1831-1836: voyage of the HMS Beagle 1836 – Emerson’s Nature 1839 – Darwin publishes first of essays on voyage 1844 – Darwin writes the essay that will become Origin. 1845-1847: Thoreau living at Walden Pond 1854 – Walden published 1859 – On the Origin of Species published
19 th Century Natural History Observation and classification of plants and animals - systematic view of nature. Corresponds to modern day geology, zoology, comparative anatomy, astronomy, and biology. Era of “gentlemen scientists” – people like Thoreau and Darwin who are not professionals trained in the sciences but who are otherwise educated and do this in their spare time.
19 th Century: Geology, Natural History Is the earth static? Does it change? Was it created a certain way? Does it continue to recreate itself? Are there systems of nature that we can chart in total? Can we understand how the earth keeps changing? Is earth moving towards some specific goal?
Darwin: a Literary/Scientific Figure Origin is meant as a summary, aimed at a general audience. Sold out on the day of its publication in 1859. Social sciences adapt his idea – push this idea of “survival of the fittest” to the limits. “Social Darwinism” not really a reflection of his ideas, but commonly used.
Major Works On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) The Descent of Man (1871) The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)
Charles Darwin: “Unlikely Revolutionary” Born 1809. Training to be a clergyman at Cambridge University. 1831 – Captain Robert Fitzroy looking for a “gentleman naturalist” to go with him to South America on the HMS Beagle. Darwin goes on voyage from 27 December 1831 until 2 October 1836. Reads Lyell the whole time. 1844 – On the Origin of Species published (the essay that will later become The Origin of Species)
What was so revolutionary about Darwin? In Lamarck’s tradition, Darwin does not see species as fixed. In Lyell’s tradition, Darwin sees the natural processes that acted in the past as the same processes still acting. Darwin adapts Malthus’s ideas – more individuals are created than survive... some factors must affect who survives and who does not.
Linnaean Classification System of taxonomy set up by Carl Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae in 1735 Divides nature into three kingdoms: animal; vegetable; mineral Provides a variety of classes within each kingdom Binomial nomenclature – genus and species name defines each animal
Classification “Nor shall I here discuss the various definitions which have been given for the term species. No one definition has yet satisfied all naturalists” (49). “I was much struck how entirely vague and arbitrary the distinction between species and varieties” (53). “From these remarks it will be seen that I look at the term species, as one arbitrarily given for the sake of convenience to a set of individuals closely resembling each other, and that it does essentially differ from the term variety, which is given to less distinct and fluctuating forms” (56).
Central ideas: natural selection and struggle for existence Pressures for survival mean that individuals with certain characteristics have a higher likelihood of survival and reproduction. “Struggle for Existence” Their reproduction will result in a gradual modification of the species – perhaps even a new species. Extinction and divergence of character (14). These variations are not the product of divine intent – they are random, adaptable, changing, multiple forces interacting, not stable or static or simply reactive. We understand now that genetics and probability play a big role in changes to species. (See pages 12-13 in Introduction)
Literary Technique and Scientific Theory Where else can we find Darwin relying on metaphors to explain his theory? (Concepts like machine, web, battle, victory, etc?) How does Darwin's theory challenge a pastoral conception of nature? Does it also continue to use pastoral formulations?
How does Darwin’s theory challenge a pastoral conception of nature? Pastoral: Nature is escape (either literal or imaginative). Nature is timeless, edenic, pure, something lost. Opposed to city, opposed to what is human. “At the root of pastoral is the idea of nature as a stable, enduring counterpoint to the disruptive energy and change of human societies” –Greg Garrard
Darwin reading for next Tuesday: Editor’s introduction to book (xv- lii) Darwin’s introduction (11-15) Chapter III, Struggle for Existence (63-79) Chapter IV, Natural Selection, first 5 paragraphs of chapter (80-84), take a look at the diagram in the middle of the chapter (112-113), and read the last section of chapter called “Summary of Chapter” (121-124); ---------- Recapitulation and Conclusion (401-410; 416- 427)
Darwin reading questions for next Tuesday: How does Darwin address his critics in the conclusion? How does he see the potential of his theory? Is there a way in which Darwin’s language is consistent with a spiritual worldview, rather than opposed to it? We might assume that Darwinism presents a “bleak” view of the world, as without spiritual meaning or higher purpose. But is there a way in which Darwin’s outlook is joyful? Look in particular at his description of the “entangled bank” that ends the book. Compare this passage in Darwin to the “sandbank” scene in the “Spring” chapter of Thoreau’s Walden? The philosopher Slavoj Zizek has said that “we are still not ready for the revolutionary message of Darwin, which is that nature is not natural.” What do you make of this statement?