ERIC Number: ED351703
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1992-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
Darwin's Natural Selection in the Classroom.
Resuscitating Charles Darwin's language from historians' emphatic denigration of the written word serves as an example to demonstrate what the English discipline can accomplish in recovering cultural heritage. Michael Ghiselin, an evolutionary anatomist, suggests that scholars must concentrate on the ideas, not the language, Darwin employed. Yet if words are separated from ideas, expression from content, then too much of the intellectual heritage is lost. A close analysis of chapter six of "The Origin of Species" indicates that Darwin's controversial use of the phrase "survival of the fittest" comes from an ongoing sense that the war of nature remains the dark side of its advancement. Darwin was caught in a Victorian oscillation between yearning for progress at least toward perfection, if not to actually attaining it, and fearing destruction. His adopting "survival of the fittest" for natural selection comes as an open admission of that felt tension between destruction and advancement. Employing English department methods of close reading skills on Darwin's thought establishes a fairly standard English department point: How people articulate their thoughts not only influences how others accept their views but also provides a strong indicator of what those thoughts were before being refined or discarded by subsequent thinkers. (One figure listing variations in the use of the term "perfection" in chapter six of "The Origin of Species" is attached.) (RS)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Close Reading Approach; Darwin (Charles); Historical Background; Natural Selection; Rhetorical Strategies
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the College English Association (23rd, Pittsburgh, PA, March 27-29, 1992).