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Darwin's Metaphor:
Nature's Place in Victorian Culture


Robert M. Young

Darwin's Metaphor: Nature's Place in Victorian Culture
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The nineteenth-century debate on "man's place in nature" ranged broadly and deeply. It engaged the reading public at every level, leading popular periodicals to follow closely developments in biology, geology, brain research, psychology, natural theology, and political economy. New ideas were not fragmented into academic disciplines but were viewed as part of a common set of themes for a common culture. Great issues hung on them: the basis for morality and responsibility; the relations between 'races' and between humans and other species; hopes for the future of society and for an afterlife. In this collection of six closely interrelated essays, written between 1968 and 1973, Robert Young emphasizes the scope of the Darwinian debate and challenges the approaches of the scholars who write about it. He is sharply critical of the separation of the writing of history from writing about history - historiography - and of the separation of history from politics and ideology, both then and now. Contending the fellow historians have reimposed the very disciplinary boundaries that the nineteenth-century debate showed to be in the service of Victorian ideology, Dr. Young advocates full recognition and open debate of contending positions. Discussion of the relationships among values, politics and nature, Young argues, must be retrieved from scholarly obscurantism. Darwinism is the main scientific theory that places humanity in nature. How we think about it plays a major role in deciding the place of nature in our culture, just as it did in Victorian culture.

Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Pp. xx+341


Preface: a personal perspective

1.  The impact of Darwin on conventional thought

2.  Malthus and the evolutionists: the common context of biological and social theory

3.  The role of psychology in the nineteenth-century evolutionary debate

4.  Darwin's metaphor: Does nature select?

5.  Natural theology, Victorian periodicals, and the fragmentation of a common context

6.  The historiographic and ideological contexts of the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature










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