Darwin in the Literary World

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Within months of Darwin’s publication of the Origin of Species, novelists, poets and artists began to turn Darwin’s ideas into art. That they have continued to do so up to the present day is a testimony to the imaginative reach of Darwin’s ideas as well as to the extent to which they transformed ways of seeing. Darwinism can be seen running through some of the late nineteenth century’s most richly imaginative prose and poetry including Kingsley’s The Water Babies, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr Moreau and Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But where nineteenth-century writers may have seen hybrid monsters, degeneration and extinction, Darwinism has come to have new meanings for each subsequent generation of writers and artists. Novelist and academic Rebecca Stott will show this perpetual re-making and ‘making new’ of Darwin’s ideas by taking a literary journey through late nineteenth-century fiction, to the poetry of Thomas Hardy, Ted Hughes and Ruth Padel and to the contemporary novels of Ian McEwan and A.S. Byatt to show that writers have not just re-used Darwin’s ideas but have translated, adapted and extended them in fascinating ways.