Darwinism in Argentina: Major Texts (1845-1909)

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Darwinism in Argentina: Major Texts (1845-1909) brings together essays, letters, short-stories, and public lectures by travelers, scientists, writers, and politicians about Darwin and the theory of evolution in nineteenth century Argentina. This selection of texts provides a thorough overview of the socio-ideological implications of the theory of evolution in South America, as well as the intellectual debate this scientific theory promoted in the discourses of fiction, law, history, and medicine in the formation of modern Argentina.

Some writers in this book considered the theory of evolution to be Argentinean because Darwin first conceived his theory traveling in the Beagle, across “the big cemetery of glyptodont and megatherium fossils” on the pampas and in Patagonia.

This anthology includes texts from William H. Hudson, Francisco Muñiz, Florentino Ameghino, Eduardo Holmberg, Domingo F. Sarmiento, Hermann Burmeister, the Perito Moreno, Leopoldo Lugones, José María Ramos Mejía, and José Ingenieros, among others. Many of these texts have not been translated to English or reprinted until this edition, which was originally published with fewer texts in Spanish in 2008. Leila Gómez’s introduction reconstructs the historical-scientific contexts of the Darwinist debate in Argentina, the role of paleontology as modern discipline in South American countries, and the tensions between metropolitan and local scientific knowledge.

Both the anthology and the introduction present a panorama of Darwin and evolution in Argentina, and the complex mechanism of inclusion and exclusion of indigenous, African descendants, mestizos, and immigrants in the modern nation. Darwinism in Argentina provides critical perspectives on evolutionism in South America that will interest students and specialists in literature, history, and science.

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About the Author:

Leila Gómez is associate professor of Latin American Literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Review:

Gómez (Latin American literature, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) has compiled and edited essays, letters, and fiction from an eclectic group of writers including Charles Darwin and contemporary Argentinean scientists and men of letters. These excerpts highlight the actual controversy that took place in Argentina between supporters and opponents of evolution after publication of the Origin (1859), and contrasts it with a fictional feud between Darwinists and anti-Darwinists, first portrayed in Eduardo Holmberg's novel Two Parties in Conflict (1875). That work pictured an elderly Darwin revisiting Argentina to explain his theory to both groups; this is not entirely credible because after Darwin returned to England, he did not travel far and shunned controversy. When Darwin's ideas reached Argentina, the foundations of scientific and "sociological" thought in Argentina were shaken. Gómez suggests that the confrontation between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and Thomas Henry Huxley in 1860 at Oxford University--meetings Darwin scrupulously avoided, leaving Huxley to battle the anti-Darwinians alone--assisted in the dissemination of Darwinism. The observations of William Henry Hudson concerning the pampas woodpecker and Darwin's responses perhaps are the most relevant natural history passages included here. This anthology is best suited for scholars of Latin American literature. Summing Up: Recommended. (CHOICE)

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