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Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability

Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability

£72.00

Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: April 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521872492

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  • The success of Charles Darwin's evolutionary theories in mid-nineteenth-century Britain has long been attributed, in part, to his own adherence to strict standards of Victorian respectability, especially in regard to sex. Gowan Dawson contends that the fashioning of such respectability was by no means straightforward or unproblematic, with Darwin and his principal supporters facing surprisingly numerous and enduring accusations of encouraging sexual impropriety. Integrating contextual approaches to the history of science with work in literary studies, Dawson sheds light on the well-known debates over evolution by examining them in relation to the murky underworlds of Victorian pornography, sexual innuendo, unrespectable freethought and artistic sensualism. Such disreputable and generally overlooked aspects of nineteenth-century culture were actually remarkably central to many of these controversies. Focusing particularly on aesthetic literature and legal definitions of obscenity, Dawson reveals the underlying tensions between Darwin's theories and conventional notions of Victorian respectability.

    • An innovative interpretation of Victorian attitudes to Darwin and his theories
    • Uses an interdisciplinary approach and many unpublished sources
    • Reveals a surprising context for the many cartoons depicting Darwin, eight of which are included
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: '… a strikingly original, probing study that should command the attention and respect of scholars of Darwin and of Victorian scientific culture in general.' Frank M. Turner, Journal of BJHS

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2007
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521872492
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 164 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.63kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: Darwinian science and Victorian respectability
    2. Charles Darwin, Algernon Charles Swinburne and sexualised responses to evolution
    3. John Tyndall, Walter Pater and the nineteenth-century revival of paganism
    4. Darwinism, Victorian freethought and the Obscene Publications Act
    5. The refashioning of William Kingdon Clifford's posthumous reputation
    6. T. H. Huxley, Henry Maudsley and the pathologisation of aestheticism
    Notes
    Bibliography
    Index.

  • Author

    Gowan Dawson, University of Leicester

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