Darwin the Writer

ISBN : 9780199608430

George Levine
272 ページ
141 x 221 mm

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, arguably the most important book written in English in the nineteenth century, transformed the way we looked at the world. It is usually assumed that this is because the idea of evolution was so staggeringly powerful. Prize-winning author George Levine suggests that much of its influence was due, in fact, to its artistry; to the way it was written. Alive with metaphor, vivid descriptions, twists, hesitations, personal exclamations, and humour, the prose is imbued with the sorts of tensions, ambivalences, and feelings characteristic of great literature. Although it is certainly a work of "science," the Origin is equally a work of "literature," at home in the company of celebrated Victorian novels such as Middlemarch and Bleak House, books that give us a unique yet recognisable sense of what the world is really like, while not being literally 'true'. Darwin's enormous cultural success, Levine contends, depended as much on the construction of his argument and the nature of his language, as it did on the power of his ideas and his evidence. By challenging the dominant reading of his work, this impassioned and energetic book gives us a Darwin who is comic rather than tragic, ebullient rather than austere, and who takes delight in the wild and fluid entanglement of things.


1. Darwin, the Writer
2. Learning to See: Darwin's Prophetic Apprenticeship on the Beagle Voyage
3. The Prose of On the Origin of Species
4. Surprise and Paradox: Darwin's Artful Legacy
5. Darwinian Mind and Wildean Paradox
6. Hardy's Woodlanders and the Darwinian Grotesque
7. Coda: The Comic Darwin


Now a visiting professor at Gallatin College, New York University, George Levine is Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University, where in almost forty years of teaching Victorian literature and the study of the relations between science and literature, he combined his own passion for nature with his literary scholarship. His Lifebirds is an autobiographical narrative about birding, and his earlier books on Darwin, Darwin and the Novelists and Darwin Loves You, brought together that feeling for the natural with a feeling for literature. He has won many awards, like Guggenheim, NEH, and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, and has been a fellow at the study centers in Bellagio and Bogliasco, as well as at Girton College, Cambridge and Northwestern University. He was founder of the interdisciplinary study center at Rutgers, The Center for Cultural Analysis.