Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution
Ian Duncan (English) traces how thinking about human and animal nature shifted over the course of the 19th century, as reflected in its major novels. Instead of thinking of their characters as beings who merely reveal their essential nature as they progress through their narratives, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot began depicting them as figures who develop in open-ended ways, exploiting the Victorian novel's plastic, free-wheeling form to redefine the nature of Nature. In Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution (Princeton, 2019), Duncan shows how the novel became a major experimental instrument for managing a new set of divisions — between nature and history, individual and species, human and biological life.
Duncan is joined by Kevin Padian (Integrative Biology). After a brief discussion, they open the floor for discussion.