The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories: A Syllabus
The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories:
Exploring the Significance of Diversity
Bryn Mawr College
Anne Dalke (English House, ext. 5308, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Paul Grobstein (Park Science Building, ext. 5098, email@example.com)
"There is grandeur in this view of life...that...
from so simple a beginning endless forms
most beautiful and most wonderful
have been, and are being, evolved."
Charles Darwin, On The Origin of Species
"But what is life but an experiment?...
I consider Leaves of Grass and
its theory experimental--"
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
| Required Texts:
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection (1859; rpt. and ed. Joseph Carroll, 2003)
Daniel Dennett. Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (1995)
Paul Feyerabend, "Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge" (1975)
Susan Sontag. "Against Interpretation" (1963)
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (The Original 1855 Edition; rpt. Dover 2007)
Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American: A Novel (2008)
Sun, Jan. 25 (and each Sunday evening thereafter):
post on-line your thoughts about this (or last) week's readings-and-conversations
5 p.m. Fri, Feb. 13: Paper #1 due
Write 3-4 pp. in which you think through some problem that has been raised in your mind by our discussion of biological evolution. This is not a "reaction paper" (like your forum postings), but should rather make a claim, develop a thesis, and support it with observations which you have drawn from several new resources you have located (either in the form of written texts or on the web).
Some sample topics:
- why should evolution be taught, or not, in high school?
- perform a textual analysis of Darwin: explain the process by which he makes meaning, examining his use of language, his underlying presumptions, etc.
- write a critical evaluation of the evidence for evolution
post a copy of the paper in the course web exchange.
Weeks Five-Seven: Is Evolution a Useful Story Beyond Biology?
Tues, Feb. 17 Dennett, Part I: Starting in the Middle (pp. 17-145)
Thurs, Feb. 19 Dennett, continued
Tues, Feb. 24 Dennett, Chapters 12-14 (pp. 335-427)
Thurs, Feb. 26 Dennett, continued
Tues, Mar. 3 Dennett, Chapters 15-18 (pp. 428-521)
Thurs, Mar. 5 Dennett, continued
SPRING BREAK March 7-15
5 p.m. Mon, Mar. 16: Paper #2 due
3-4 pp. on some aspect of the story of evolution beyond the context of biology which is of particular interest or use to you. Bring a hard copy to class and also post a copy of the paper in the course web exchange.
Weeks Eight-Twelve: How and why do Literary Stories Evolve?
3-4 pp. on some aspect of the evolution of literary stories that particularly interests--or is useful--to you. Submit a hard copy and post a copy in the course web exchange.
Weeks Thirteen and Fourteen:
Biological Evolution, Literature, and ... ?
Tues, Apr. 21 What a Biologist is Learning from Literary Criticisim;
What a Literary Critic is Learning from Biology...
Thurs, Apr. 22
What We All are Learning from One Another....
Tues, Apr. 28 & Thurs. Apr. 30
Bringing it all together--telling each other new stories
Spontaneously formed emergent groups of four or so students each should prepare ten-fifteen minute presentations reflecting on their experiences over the semester. Presentations should encourage, in a provocative and entertaining way, further story development on the part of others in the class.
12:30 p.m. Friday, May 15 (all others)
Paper #4 and Portfolio Due.
Paper #4: 10-12 pp. in which you make use of the biological, philosophical and literary stories of the course to create a new, interesting, useful story of your own--one that might well (in consultation with your instructor) have a creative dimension.
Instructions for Preparing and Posting Your Papers
Instructions for Preparing Your Portfolio
The images on these pages are reproduced with permission of
Rieko Nakamura and Toshihiro Anzai;
you can see a complete display of their work at http://www.renga.com.