Anne Dalke (English House, ext. 5308, email@example.com)
Paul Grobstein (Park Science Building, ext. 5098, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ahab: "There is a tragicalness in being human."
Una's inner reply: "Yes--but that is only one way.
There are many ways. We choose."
The images on these pages are reproduced with permission of
We will experiment, in this course, with two interrelated and reciprocal inquiries: whether the biological concept of evolution is a useful one in understanding the phenomena of literature (in particular: the generation of new stories), and whether literature contributes to a deeper understanding of evolution. We will begin with an exploration of the basis for the "story" of evolution as developed by biologists, move on to a consideration of the relevance of the concept of evolution for making sense of other bodies of information and observations, and then turn to a consideration of one literary story growing out of another. We will ask repeatedly: Where do stories (scientific and literary) come from? Why do new ones emerge? What causes them to change? Why do (must?) some of them disappear? We will consider the parallels between diversity of stories and diversity of living organisms, and think about what new insights into evolution and literature emerge from such considerations.
| Required Texts:|
John Schwartz. "A History of Strange Bounces, A Future of the Unexpected."
The New York Times Week in Review. December 28, 2003. 1,4.
William Broad. "Be Careful What You Look For On Mars: A Cosmic Ego Trip."
Ernst Mayr. What Evolution Is. New York: Basic, 2001.
Daniel Dennett. Darwin's Dangerous Idea:
Jonathan Culler. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction.
Herman Melville. Moby-Dick or, The Whale.
Sena Jeter Naslund. Ahab's Wife
Or, The Star-Gazer: A Novel.
Where Does the Story of Biological Evolution Come From?
Tues, Jan. 27 Mayr. Chapters 1-4 (pp. 3-82)
Thurs, Jan. 29 Mayr, Chapters 1-4, continued
Tues, Feb. 3 Mayr, Chapters 5-8 (pp. 83-173)
Thurs, Feb. 5 Mayr, Chapters 5-8, continued
Tues, Feb. 10 Mayr, Chapters 9-12 (pp. 174-268)
Thurs, Feb. 12 Mayr, Chapters 9-12, continued
FRIDAY, FEB. 20: Write a 3-4 pp. paper 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 evidence 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:
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, Part I, continued
Tues, Feb. 24 Dennett, Chapters 12-14 (pp. 335-427)
Thurs, Feb. 26 Dennett, Chapters 12-14, continued
Tues, Mar. 2 Dennett, Chapters 15-18 (pp. 428-521)
Thurs, Mar. 4 Dennett, Chapters 15-18, continued
| Weeks Eight-Thirteen: How and why do Literary Stories Evolve? |
Tues, Mar. 16 Culler, Chapters 1-4 (pp. 1-69)
Thurs, Mar. 18 Culler, Chapters 5-8 (pp. 70-122)
Fri, Mar. 19 [NOTE EXTENSION] Paper #2 due
Tues, Mar. 23 Melville, through Ch. 26 (p. 104)
Fri, Apr. 16 Paper #3 due:
Tues, Apr. 20 Naslund, pp. 444-555
| Week Fourteen (Tues, Apr. 27 and Thurs, Apr. 29) |
Bringing it all together--telling each other new stories
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 Your Portfolio
| Course Home Page | Forum | Science in Culture | Serendip Home |