Chapter

Darwinian Mind and Wildean Paradox

George Levine

in Darwin the Writer

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608430
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731709 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608430.003.0005
Darwinian Mind and Wildean Paradox

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This chapter develops the points made in the previous chapter, focusing on the most difficult of all the problems facing Darwin's theory: the development of consciousness itself from unintentional and unconscious matter. This is the primary paradox of the Darwinian argument. The chapter reads Darwin's ideas and language against Oscar Wilde's critical-comic dialogue, The Decay of Lying, and demonstrates the ways in which Wilde's famous mode of paradoxical comedy echoes remarkably Darwin's more sober arguments about consciousness. The chapter thus provides evidence for the book's claim that Darwin's vision can be (and was) taken for comic and to understand fully his writing he needs to be read not only in the usual scientific contexts, but in relation to other writers.

Keywords: paradox; natural selection; comic; Oscar Wilde; The Decay of Lying; mind; consciousness; aestheticism; beauty; sexual selection

Chapter.  13411 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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