Evolution and Literature

jhercher's picture

Evolution in Poetry

I was reading a poem called "Darwin" by Lorine Niedecker (I'm in a poetry course that includes an anthology of American poetry).  For some reason, I can't find it online.  Google has rarely let me down like this.  But I think the poem was really interesting in relation to the course and to this week's reading in particular.  One of the things the poem brings up (it quotes Darwin's letters home during his voyage at points) how the process of coming up with the theory of evolution and natural selection was so incredibly difficult and time consuming.  People think of the theory as a stroke of brilliance, like an idea that popped fully formed into Darwin's head.  But reading Origins, as well as this poem, opened my eyes to how intense the work was that

senior11z's picture

Week 1 Reaction

 I grudgingly accepted the fact that I would indeed have to read a book about science before I graduated and began to read "On the Origin of Species" with apprehension. How could this possibly be related to stories?! In fact, as I read I found it quite compelling and surprised myself when I found the lengthy discussions of pigeons fascinating. The connection finally came to light on pages 117 and 118 when Darwin talks about natural selection in relation to pears, of all things. He says cultivating plants is a skill and a subconscious process, and while at the time the breeder certainly was looking for the best pear he could find, he had no way of knowing how this could affect the kinds of pears we would be eating in the near and far future. It made me think about pears today.

Cremisi's picture

Week One thoughts

From all the discussion and statements uttered during the first two days, one quote in particular stuck out to me. Professor Grobstein said something along the lines, "In the movies, you see the scientist running out of the room screaming 'I was right! I was right!' in elation. What scientists want to prove most is that what they were thinking--and what everyone else in the world was thinking--was wrong. This statement made me incredibly happy. It gave me his feeling that I usually get when I am about to go on a long vacation to a new town in a different state, as though life is moving around me at a barreling pace, and whisks me along in a hopeful and caring wind. However, this feeling ended very soon.

ems8140's picture

Week 1 post

I enjoyed the discussion in class on Thursday. Even though I'm a very science oriented person and was somewhat frustrated when Professor Grobstein questioned why he wasn't walking "down" if the Earth is round, I still appreciated the fact that he was asking questions and getting us to think about looking at facts/assumptions more abstractly. I hadn't really thought about the idea that a hypothesis or theory could never be "true." However, after class on Thursday and further thought, it makes perfect sense that something could never be "true." If something was true, then that would mean that this belief or theory would never have the opportunity to change/develop/advance.

katlittrell's picture

week 1

While reading On the Origin of Species, I could not shake Professor Grobstein's directive to us to read it as we would a romance, or any other novel. I felt so little of the words on the page held romance in and of themselves, that, instead, the true romance was somewhat hidden beneath the work, hinted at by Darwin's throwaway comments about his research, life, and contemporaries. Every so often his pure joy for his subject would come tumbling out: "We see these beautiful co-adaptations most plainly in the woodpecker and missletoe [sic]; and only a little less plainly... in the plumed seed which is wafted by the gentlest breeze; in short, we see beautiful adaptations everywhere and in every part of the organic world" (p132).

the.believer's picture

Thoughts on Week 1

 Based on my education on the topic of evolution, I have been taught to believe that evolution is exclusively applied to organisms. Darwin's observations and conclusions coupled with Mendel's genetic experiments on living organisms told me that evolution is "survival of the fittest", "natural selection" and that the inheritance of these fit traits are guided by a set of rules and probability. After this first week of class, I found myself thinking too close-minded about this topic. At it's core, evolution is about perpetual changing so the term can generally encompass anything that changes over time such as language and culture. Because my education has always tagged evolution to biology and the Darwinian concepts, my thoughts have been biased.

Vivien Chen's picture

"Evolution is a Bloody Good Story"

 In class, Professor Grobstein asked the class, "Why am I here? Or rather, Why are you here?" And the first word or phrase that came to my mind was "chain-reaction." Darwin, in his novel "Origin of Species," says that, "We have.. seen that it is the most flourishing and dominant species of the larger genera, which on average vary most; and varieties, as we shall hereafter see, tend to become converted into new distinct species." He then in a later chapter asks how have these adaptations from organisms been perfected. I believe that chance has a lot to do with how we got here and how other organisms became what we now know them as, which correlates to my previous chain-reaction thought.

rachelr's picture


 Hi, I'm Rachel and I am pre-vet here at Bryn Mawr- bio major, NBS concentration. This is my 3rd class with Anne and Paul is my major advisor, so I guess I'm interested to see how the class flows between both of them. I also really like posting my papers and class thoughts on serendip and I am a big fan of mixing different medias in my papers, so I am glad to be back using it. As I said in class I never really learned about evolution; I learned about the historical figures central to it in history classes but I never quite made it to evolution itself.

Vivien Chen's picture

Introducing Vivien

      My Name is Vivien Chen and I am currently a Freshman at Bryn Mawr. I am thinking of becoming an English Major and am still currently deciding on a minor. Even though science was never necessarily one of my "strengths" in high school, I absolutely love Biology and think it is really fascinating. So, this class really makes it easy for me to enjoy by combining the two subjects together. Questions about evolution and existence are topics that particularly interest me because they raise so many questions and also don't have any right or wrong answers. I would like to learn if evolution is a random process and if the genetic variation of the "fit species" is a random, kind of trial and error process of natural selection.

ckosarek's picture

ckosarek's introduction

 I'm a junior English major and psychology minor at BMC, headed toward a post-bac program upon graduation. I run XC in the fall and live for skiing and ski racing in the winter. I like to say that I'm a fact-based English major in that most of my English papers involve a lot of outside research (usually of a psychological nature), which I combine with whatever we're reading or doing in class. I also like to say that I'm on a "need to know" basis with the world; I'm constantly curious, always intrigued, always looking for a good conversation.

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