Download Dickens and Heredity: When Like Begets Like by Goldie Morgentaler PDF

By Goldie Morgentaler

Regardless of the trendy obsession with genetics and reproductive know-how, little or no has been written approximately Dickens' fascination with heredity, nor the influence that this fascination had on his novels. Dickens and Heredity is an try to rectify that omission by way of describing the hereditary theories that have been present in Dickens's time and the way those are mirrored in his fiction. The booklet additionally argues that Dickens jettisoned his prior trust within the prescriptive and deterministic strength of heredity after Darwin released The foundation of Species in 1859.

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Leonard Barkan suggests that metamorphosis renders all things numinous, designating every object in the universe as containing not merely a spark of life, but also a mystical and metaphorical meaning. 45 Myths which seek to explain origins do so in terms of how an individual - invariably a human - was transformed into something else: Arachne into a spider, Narcissus into a flower. Once transformed, the spider goes on to become the ancestor of generations of spiders, as the flower does of generations of flowers, but we know that this constant reproduction of like by like is not inevitable, that should some god will another transformation, the spider may be returned to her original human shape or may even be transformed into another shape.

Scientific debate of the nineteenth century focused not only on the question of human origins, but also on the mechanics of sexual reproduction, specifically on the role of the male in generation. By this time, the female contribution to the reproductive process was generally acknowledged and understood, but the importance of sperm and the manner in which it interacted with the egg - if, indeed, it did so at all - was still a matter for conjecture and controversy. This debate had serious repercussions for the social interaction of the sexes during the nineteenth century.

The biologists who adopted these philosophical views were called vitalists. Many of them regarded it as axiomatic that the phenomena they observed could not be explained by any underlying causal physicochemical processes. Instead they looked for an explanation of a radically different kind, which had more in common with the Aristotelian idea of a formal cause. Nature could only be understood by studying the diversity of its forms, but these forms were all variations of a limited number of ideal types or archetypes which, like the Platonic idea, were never fully realised in the actual organisms.

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