English R1B

Reading and Composition: Victorian Literature of Evolution

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Spring 2015 Browning, Catherine Cronquist
TTh 11-12:30 225 Wheeler

Book List

Darwin, C.: On the Origin of Species; Gosse, E.: Father and Son; Kingsley, C.: Water-Babies; Otis, L.: Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century; Tennyson, A.: In Memoriam


This course will examine British literature related to the evolutionary theories emergent in the nineteenth century. We will read a combination of scientific writing, literary fiction, and poetry, attending both to the scientific discoveries made during the Victorian period and to the influence these discoveries had on the imagination of contemporary authors and the public. The focus of our class will be on evolution as it was understood – and misunderstood – in the nineteenth century; however, for the sake of clarity and comparison, we will also briefly review the currently accepted model of evolution in the biological sciences.

As part of the university’s Reading and Composition requirement, this course develops reading, writing, and research skills that are applicable across the curriculum. We will focus on how to find, evaluate, and make effective use of research tools and resources for analytic writing. The primary writing assignments for the course will be three progressively longer papers combining analysis of primary texts with research from secondary sources. Strategies for revision will form another major focus of the course, and the second and third papers will include substantial work and feedback at the prewriting and draft stages of composition.  

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