Sigmund Freud famously called Darwin’s theory of evolution and the idea that humans and apes descended from common ancestors one of the great blows to human narcissism. While Freud may be a bit grandiloquent here, the theory of evolution did leave a profound imprint on Western thinking. Evolution changed how people in the late 19th and early 20th century thought about what human beings are, how they relate to the natural world and how they imagined the emergence and decline of societies, ecosystems, and species. In the wake of Darwin, popular and literary fiction became important vehicles for working through Darwin’s theory and the resulting cultural anxieties about evolution, degeneration, extinction, and eugenics.
The seminar will delineate Darwin’s work and its intellectual context and then focus on three texts and their responses to the Darwinian theory of evolution: Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, a defense of Darwin in the form of a fairy tale, H.G. Wells’ groundbreaking speculation about Britain’s evolutionary future, The Time Machine, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist utopia, Herland.
The seminar will be an interdisciplinary compact course, co-taught with historian of science (and renowned Darwin-authority) Prof. Piers Hale (University of Oklahoma).
The bulk of the seminar will take place during the term break, from Monday 20 to Friday 31 July (2x90 minutes per day in the mornings). There will be a preliminary meeting in late April/early May to clarify organizational questions, the precise date of which will be announced shortly.
UPDATE: Due to current developments, we now do not expect students from Oklahoma to join the seminar (as was previously announced). However, we still expect that Prof. Hale will collaborate in teaching the seminar.
The course is part of admission "Anmeldung gesperrt (global)".
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