Poetry in the Age of Darwin

John Holmes

in Darwin's Bards

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780748639403
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652174 | DOI:
Poetry in the Age of Darwin

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This chapter argues that both the so-called eclipse of Darwinism around the turn of the last century and disputes between current evolutionists have been overplayed. It then briefly addresses the tradition of Darwinian poetry that runs from Charles Darwin's own day to the present. It uses three poems by the contemporary Scottish poet Edwin Morgan to set out a number of ways in which a poet can approach Darwinism and shed light upon it. The Origin of Species in its first edition remains the most persuasive case ever made for the thesis that the diversity of life is the product of evolution by means of natural selection. The Darwinian tradition in modern English and American poetry centres on the work of George Meredith, Thomas Hardy, Robert Frost, Robinson Jeffers and Edna St Vincent Millay. As Morgan's poems show, poetry can even change how humans think about Darwinism itself.

Keywords: Darwinian poetry; Darwinism; Charles Darwin; Edwin Morgan; The Origin of Species; George Meredith; Thomas Hardy; Robert Frost; Robinson Jeffers; Edna St Vincent Millay

Chapter.  16218 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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