ARTICLES: Darwin in Denmark, Shakespeare and Darwin, and Dobzhansky

In the Journal of the History of Ideas:

Protestant Responses to Darwinism in Denmark, 1859–1914

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

Preview From the 1870s onwards, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, published in On the Origin of Species (1859) and Descent of Man (1871), was an important topic among the followers of the influential Danish theologian N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783–1872). The Grundtvigians constituted a major faction within the Danish Evangelical-Lutheran Established Church, which included more than ninety percent of the population in the period 1859–1914. This article demonstrates the influence of local contexts on the reception of scientific ideas by analyzing how specific aspects of Danish intellectual culture made the Grundtvigian reactions to Darwin’s theory different from Protestant denominations in America and Britain. Firstly, Grundtvig’s critique of Lutheran scriptural theology and his preference for the living word to the letters of the Bible legitimized liberal interpretations of Scripture. Secondly the philosophy of the Søren Kierkegaard protagonist, Rasmus Nielsen, made it possible for Grundtvigians to draw radical distinctions between science and faith. This specific “Danish Protestantism,” as the clergyman Frederik Jungersen phrased it in 1873, led the way for liberal Grundtvigians in coming to terms with Darwinism in the first decades of the twentieth century.

From Configurations:

Shakespeare’s Origin of Species and Darwin’s Tempest

Glen A. Love

Abstract Ecocriticism provides a natural meeting-point of the humanities and the life sciences. Shakespeare’s last great play, The Tempest, is rich in its anticipation of Darwinian evolutionary ideas, thus providing the stage for a rare two-cultures dialogue between, arguably, the world’s greatest literary artist and its greatest scientist on the most abiding and profound of subjects: nature, and especially human nature. If Caliban is the most noticeable of The Tempest‘s subjects of evolutionary and cultural significance, he is accompanied by other matters of interest in today’s expanding field of biocultural and cognitive research and thought.

From Configurations:

Evolutionary Works and Texts: Reading Dobzhansky in an Age of Genomics

Michael P. Cohen

Abstract Scientific writing is the most powerful and pervasive nature writing of our era. Instead of using science to interpret literary texts, ecocritics should read classic scientific “works” as “texts” (as Roland Barthes defines these terms), uncovering grounds for stories about nature and premises of modern environmental narratives. This essay examines a classic text of the modern evolutionary synthesis, Theodosius Dobzhansky’s Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), where the conservative force of heredity battles the random change of mutation in an “adaptive landscape,” yielding resultant “species.” Tensions between metaphors and maps structure his exposition and reveal a still-influential master-narrative.

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