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Colonies, Cults and Evolution


  • Page extent: 254 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.54 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521884587)

The concept of culture, now such an important term within both the arts and the sciences, is a legacy of the nineteenth century. By closely analyzing writings by evolutionary scientists such as Charles Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, and Herbert Spencer, alongside those of literary figures including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Arnold, Butler, and Gosse, David Amigoni shows how the modern concept of 'culture' developed out of the interdisciplinary interactions between literature, philosophy, anthropology, colonialism, and, in particular, Darwin's theories of evolution. He goes on to explore the relationship between literature and evolutionary science by arguing that culture was seen less as a singular idea or concept, and more as a field of debate and conflict. This fascinating book includes much material on the history of evolutionary thought and its cultural impact, and will be of interest to scholars of intellectual and scientific history as well as of literature.

• An important contribution to the study of the idea of culture • Develops new methodologies for studying the relationships between literature and science • Reads both canonical (Darwin, Wordsworth, Coleridge) and lesser-known writers (Wallace, Butler)


Introduction: literature, science and the hothouse of culture; 1. 'Symbolical of more important things': writing science, religion and colonialism in Coleridge's 'culture'; 2. 'Our origin, what matters it?': Wordsworth's excursive portmanteau of culture; 3. Charles Darwin's entanglements with stray colonists: cultivation and the species question; 4. 'In one another's being mingle': biology and the dissemination of 'culture' after 1859; 5. Samuel Butler's symbolic offensives: colonies and mechanical devices in the margins of evolutionary writing; 6. Edmund Gosse's cultural evolution: sympathetic magic, imitation, and contagious literature; Conclusion: culture's field, culture's vital garment; Bibliography.


Review of the hardback: 'In its range, complexity, and theoretical engagement, the study makes a rich contribution to both cultural studies and the growing body of science and literature studies that seeks to reconcile rather than oppose the insights of poststructuralism and evolutionary discourse. … Colonies, Cults and Evolution makes a stimulating, controversial, and hence very welcome addition to the growing corpus of Victorian science and literature studies.' David Amigoni, The British Society for Literature and Science

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