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We recommend — Evolution and Imagination in Victorian Children’s Literature


Evolution and Imagination in Victorian Children’s Literature
Jessica Straley
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016

From the publisher: “Evolutionary theory sparked numerous speculations about human development, and one of the most ardently embraced was the idea that children are animals recapitulating the ascent of the species. After Darwin’s Origin of Species, scientific, pedagogical, and literary works featuring beastly babes and wild children interrogated how our ancestors evolved and what children must do in order to repeat this course to humanity. Exploring fictions by Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Frances Hodgson, Burnett, Charles Kingsley, and Margaret Gatty, Jessica Straley argues that Victorian children’s literature not only adopted this new taxonomy of the animal child, but also suggested ways to complete the child’s evolution. In the midst of debates about elementary education and the rising dominance of the sciences, children’s authors plotted miniaturized evolutions for their protagonists and readers and, more pointedly, proposed that the decisive evolutionary leap for both our ancestors and ourselves is the advent of the literary imagination.

Jessica Straley is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Utah. She has published articles on evolutionary theory, vivisection, and Victorian literature in Victorian Studies and Nineteenth-Century Literature and has contributed a chapter to Drawing on the Victorian: The Palimsest of Victorian and Non-Victorian Graphic Texts, edited by Anna Maria Jones and Rebecca N. Mitchell.”

The Rare Books Department is pleased to have contributed images to this book from its copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865).

Straley, Evolution, p. 96 Straley, Evolution, p. 103 Straley, Evolution, p. 104 Straley, Evolution, p. 112-113

Congratulations, Professor Straley!

View the original article on the OpenBook Blog

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