Autobiologies: Charles Darwin and the Natural History of the Self

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9781611486001: Autobiologies: Charles Darwin and the Natural History of the Self
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What does heredity mean for identity? What role does the individual have in shaping a personal or a human history? What is the ethical status of seemingly biologically determined behaviours? What does individual death mean in the light of species extinction? Autobiologies explores the importance of such questions in Victorian life writing. Analysing memoirs, diaries, letters, and natural histories Alexis Harley demonstrates how theories of natural selection shaped nineteenth-century autobiographical practices and refashioned the human subject—and also how the lived experience of the individual theorist simultaneously impacted their biological formulations.

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About the Author:

Alexis Harley lectures in English at La Trobe University, Australia, specializing in autobiography and nineteenth-century literature

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Harley suggests that the 'Victorian preoccupation with self' was a force in driving the development of evolutionary ideas, indicating that Charles Darwin’s evolutionary scheme resulted from his concept of self; i.e., 'life around him shaped his theory.' The author finds a relation between the work of the biologist and the autobiographer because both biologists and autobiographers are obsessed with observation and documenting life, thus reinforcing the idea that there is a strong connection between biology and biography. . . .[The author] explains that such Victorian evolutionists as Darwin took up autobiography (or autobiology) by examining the effects of evolutionary theories on the self. . . .The book is primarily for those concerned with literary subjects. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and researchers/faculty. (CHOICE)

The eloquent and often challenging Autobiologies argues that Victorian thinkers investigated their own lives as instances within a holistic evolutionary theory. Alexis Harley explores a range of Darwinian and post-Darwinian life-writings along the grain of a fresh narrative that allows us to see the autobiographic writings of Darwin, Spencer, Martineau, Tennyson, Wilde, and Gosse as forms of ‘autobiology’. Wisely, she does not attempt to draw all these diverse writers together under a single template but she does explore the various ways in which evolutionary theory, with its emphasis on change, on the individual under the stress of environment, and on loss, unsettled and challenged earlier construals of the self. The Conclusion takes the work forward into 20th century dilemmas and displacements concerning the relations of 'nature' and 'culture' and ends with a beautiful use of Barthes' idea of a text as 'a tissue of quotations' to express (as it were against the understanding possible to him during the nineteenth century) Darwin's understanding of the individual. This wide-ranging and pleasurable work ought to be widely read. (Dame Gilliam Beer, University of Cambridge)

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Book Description Bucknell University Press, United States, 2014. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. What does heredity mean for identity? What role does the individual have in shaping a personal or a human history? What is the ethical status of seemingly biologically determined behaviours? What does individual death mean in the light of species extinction? Autobiologies explores the importance of such questions in Victorian life writing. Analysing memoirs, diaries, letters, and natural histories Alexis Harley demonstrates how theories of natural selection shaped nineteenth-century autobiographical practices and refashioned the human subject-and also how the lived experience of the individual theorist simultaneously impacted their biological formulations. Seller Inventory # BTE9781611486001

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