1st Edition

Human Evolution and Fantastic Victorian Fiction

By Anna Neill Copyright 2021
    182 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    182 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Following the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Victorian anthropology made two apparently contradictory claims: it distinguished "civilized man" from animals and "primitive" humans and it linked them though descent. Paradoxically, it was by placing human history in a deep past shaped by minute, incremental changes (rather than at the apex of Providential order) that evolutionary anthropology could assert a new form of human exceptionalism and define civilized humanity against both human and nonhuman savagery.

    This book shows how fantastic Victorian and early Edwardian fictions—utopias, dystopias, nonsense literature, gothic horror, and children’s fables—untether human and nonhuman animal agency from this increasingly orthodox account of the deep past. As they imagine worlds that lift the evolutionary constraints on development and as they collapse evolution into lived time, these stories reveal (and even occupy) dynamic landscapes of cognitive descent that contest prevailing anthropological ideas about race, culture, and species difference.

    Chapter One

    Introduction: Strange Stories and the Descent of Mind


    Chapter Two

    Phylogeny Recapitulates Ontogeny: Fantastic Evolution and Fairy Science in The Water-Babies


    Chapter Three

    Developmental Nonsense in the Alice Tales


    Chapter Four

    Orality, Print, and Evolution in the Just So Stories


    Chapter Five

    Becoming Animal in The Island of Doctor Moreau


    Chapter Six

    The Machinate Literary Mammal: Samuel Butler’s Strange Stories


    Chapter Seven

    Exotic Geography, Natural Religion, and the Liberal Case against Eugenics in Flatland


    Chapter Eight

    Deep Time and the Socialist Utopia



    Shallowing the Past


    Anna Neill is Professor of English at the University of Kansas. She is the author of two other books: British Discovery Literature and the Rise of Global Commerce (2003) and Primitive Minds: Evolution and Spiritual Experience in the Victorian Novel (2013).