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TTH 1:30-2:45
Discovery 246

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ENG 430: Darwin's Origin and Victorian Culture

Fall 2010 Syllabus

This course meets on Tuesday and Thursdays from 1:30 to 2:45 PM .

The format will be a discussion-based class with some brief introductory lectures. Readings are listed below on the syllabus. In addition to completing the weekly reading, submitting the writing assignments, and attending class regularly and participating in in-class discussion, you are required to participate in asynchronous Blackboard discussions every week. The issues raised in these discussions will inform our in-class discussions.

This course seeks to develop your critical interpretive skills, to broaden your knowledge of nineteenth century British literature and culture, and to enhance your writing, reading, and research skills.

Dan Bivona
Office: LL 224

Office hours: T 3-5 (in LL 224), T 7-9 pm (online only), and by appointment

Directions for online meetings:
[Audio conference: Call my Skype number from any phone: 602-903-3825]
[Video conference: 1) Find my contact info in the Skype Directory, 2)
add me to your contacts list, 3) and make a video call (this requires you to have Skype
on your computer; video calls on Skype are free. See to download)]

Phone: 602-903-3825
My Website

See my faculty profile here:

2009 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of the most important book of the nineteenth century: Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. A comprehensive synthesis of challenging ideas, some of which were already widespread within the scientific community in the 1850s, the Origin, when it burst upon the scene, also offered its readers both a narrative of the origins of organic life and a metanarrative argument about how to construct the story of life before consciousness. In this course, we will examine the impact and influence of this important text in the late nineteenth century. Besides the Origin of Species, we will be reading from a variety of influential evolutionary theorists of the time including Spencer, Huxley, Lombroso, and Freud as well as from the works of a number of novelists and writers who grappled with the challenges posed by Darwin in their work: Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), Eliot (Middlemarch), Stevenson (Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde), Gosse (Father and Son), Hardy (Jude the Obscure), Jack London (White Fang), Wells (The Time Machine), and Conrad (Heart of Darkness). Requirements include regular participation in in-class and Blackboard discussions, occasional quizzes, 2 brief critical papers, and 1 critical research paper.

Where it can be found
Due Date
% of Final Grade
2 critical papers, 750 to 1250 words in length (3-5 pages).
prompts for both papers will appear in the "Assignments" area of Blackboard
due in the Assignments Drop Box on September 23 and October 28 before 11:59 PM
1 critical research paper (12-15 pages)
topics in the "Assignments" area of Blackboard
due in the Assignments Drop Box on December 7 before 11:59 PM
weekly contributions to class discussion, on Blackboard and in class; attendance, and quizzes on the readings
"Discussion Board" area of Blackboard and in class
throughout; you will receive a letter grade for attendance, quiz performance, and in-class contributions at the end of the semester

*You have the option to revise and resubmit one of the two critical papers for an additional grade. If you choose to do so, your first draft grade will count for 10% of your final grade and the revision grade will count for 10%. Revisions are due in the Digital Drop Box on the final day of class, December .

The critical papers should be 750 to 1250 words in length (3-5 pages). This word limit will be strictly policed. Topics for the initial papers can be found on Blackboard by following the "Assignments" link. These papers are to be submitted to the digital drop box in Blackboard no later than 11:59.59 pm on the night when the paper is due.. Grade will be reduced one grade for every day the paper is late. Use MLA Format for citations. The due dates of these papers are marked in the reading list below.

The Guidelines for paper grading can be found here:

A note on getting started: Effective note-taking on the novels is very important, because you will need to use your notes to find the evidence to support the claims you make in your papers. An effective thesis should assert something about the meaning of the work that is not obvious to everyone who has read it. Moreover, an effective thesis takes a stand on an issue of significant controversy over the meaning of the work discussed. The initial paper topics, which can be found on Blackboard in the "Assignments" area, will provide you with question prompts. These are based on significant critical issues that the works have engendered. After the initial paper, you will be on your own when it comes to finding a thesis. The best general strategy in a course like this is to find an issue that allows you to connect the scientific discourse (Darwin, Spencer, Freud, Huxley, etc.) with the literary works.

The final paper, a critical research paper, should be 12-15 pages in length. You should use at least three secondary sources. Again, topics will be found on the course Blackboard in the "Assignments" area.

Weekly contributions to online class discussion: Everyone is required to pose at least 6 questions to the group online over the course of the 16-week term. In addition, every student is required to respond at least once per week to other students' or my questions. You will be graded both on the frequency of your contributions and on the quality of them. The best strategy is to post at least 2 or 3 thoughtful responses and/or questions per week. Please be sure to make them thoughtful, paragraph-long responses, not quick, two-word responses, and be sure to observe the conventions of civil online discourse (no flaming or personal remarks about other students in the class). Questions may deal with the previous week's reading or with the upcoming week's reading. You may ask questions or make responses that relate current material to material introduced earlier in the course, but please do not pose questions about a novel that the rest of the class will not have read for two more weeks. Questions and responses should be posted no later than 9 AM on the Tuesday of each week to be counted for that week.

Issues raised in the the online discussions will be discussed in class as well.

Please note that all work done for this course must be your original work. If you make use of the insights of other writers, you must cite them in your papers using MLA citation format. Punishments for plagiarism can be very severe and may include a permanent grade of "failure with academic dishonesty" or suspension from the University. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please ask me.

Author Title Edition
Darwin, Charles On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection** Oxford UP
Gosse, Edmund Father and Son* Oxford UP
Eliot, George Middlemarch** Norton
Stevenson, R. L. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde* Oxford UP
Wilde, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray* Oxford UP
Freud, Sigmund Totem and Taboo* Knopf
Hardy, Thomas Jude the Obscure ** Barnes and Noble
London, Jack White Fang* Penguin
Wells, H. G. The Time Machine* Penguin
Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness* Norton

These books are currently available at the ASU Bookstore.

*These works should be read completely in time for discussion on Tuesday.

**The reading and discussion of these books will be divided over two weeks. You should read the first half of these books for the first week of discussion.

Week Topic Reading/Assignments
Aug. 19

Introduction to the course; Evolutionary Geology, Temporality, and Religious Doubt

  • Tennyson, "In Memoriam A. H. H." (1850), sections LIV-LVI (Literature Online database)
Aug. 24-6 Darwin's narrative of a time before narrative
  • Origin of Species [read at least the first half]
Aug. 31-Sep. 2 Darwin cont.
  • Origin of Species cont. [read whole]
  • Beer, Gillian. Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth Century Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000 [1983]: "Introduction" (pp. 1-21) [available online through]
Sep. 7-9 Origin and Genesis
  • Father and Son (1907)
Sep. 14-16 Emergence: the Whole that is Greater than the Sum of its Parts
  • Middlemarch (1871-3) [read at least the first half];
  • Goldstein, Jeffrey. "Emergence as a Construct: History and Issues." Emergence 1.1 (Apr. 3, 1999): 49-72.
  • Ziman, John. "Emerging out of Nature into History: The Plurality of the Sciences." Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 361.1809 (Aug. 15, 2003): 1617-1633 (JSTOR).
Sep. 21-23* Cooperation and Sympathy
  • Middlemarch cont. [read whole]
  • Johnson et al. "Hierarchy in the Library: Egalitarian Dynamics in Victorian Novels." Evolutionary Psychology 6.4 (2008): 715-738 (available online)
  • Axelrod, Robert and Douglas Dion. "The Further Evolution of Cooperation." Science. New Series. 242.4884 (Dec. 9, 1988): 1385-1390 (JSTOR).
Sep. 28-30 Degeneration within the Professional Class
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886);
  • Lombroso, Cesare. Crime: Its Causes and Remedies. Trans. Henry P. Horton. Boston: Little Brown, 1911 [Read Chapters IV and V, pp. 43-75] (Google Books)
  • Pick, Daniel. "The Faces of Anarchy: Lombroso and the Politics of Criminal Science in Post-Unification Italy." History Workshop 21 (Spring, 1986): 60-86 (JSTOR).
  • Huxley, T. H. Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature. New York: Appleton, 1873 (Google Books) [Read pages 45-70]
Oct. 5-7 Evolution and Aesthetics
Oct. 12-14 Evolution and Aesthetics cont.
  • Wilde et al. cont.
Oct. 19-21 Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Totem and Taboo (1913)
Oct. 26-28** Evolutionary Anthropology and Sexual Selection
  • Jude the Obscure (1895) [read at least first half];
  • Weismann, August. The Germ-Plasm: A Theory of Heredity. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1898: 1-36 [Google Books]
  • Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Trans. Hubback. London and Vienna: The International Psychoanalytical Press, 1922. [Google Books]
Nov. 2-4 Acculturation, Sexual Selection, and Education
Nov. 9 Charisma and Reversion to Type
  • Heart of Darkness (1902)
Nov. 11
Veterans' Day Holiday, no class
Nov. 18-20
Class Conflict and National Efficiency
  • The Time Machine (1895)
Nov. 25 Class Conflict and National Efficiency cont.
  • The Time Machine (1895)
Nov. 27
Thanksgiving Holiday, no class
Nov. 30-Dec. 1 Naturalism, Survival of the Fittest, Parasitism, and Melodrama
  • White Fang (1906)
Dec. 7*** Naturalism, Survival of the Fittest, Parasitism, and Melodrama cont.
  • White Fang (1906)

N.B. All the readings above not ordered through the ASU Bookstore can be found online, either through Google Books or through one of the ASU Library databases. Please note that to access such databases as JSTOR you must go through the validation page on first.

* Due date of first critical paper.

**Due date of second critical paper.

***Due date of critical research paper.

  • Literature Online (database containing primary texts in British and American literature)
  • Literature Resource Center (provides access to a variety of primary and secondary texts, principally in British and American literature)
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (biographies of British literary and historical figures)
  • Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (self-explanatory)
  • JSTOR (large database of secondary sources in a variety of disciplines, some reaching back to the nineteenth century)
  • Project Muse (large database of recent [1999-2008] secondary sources in a variety of disciplines)
  • Periodicals Archive Online (large database of secondary sources, many from the nineteenth century)
  • Nineteenth Century Masterfile (digital index: identifies locations of primary and secondary material; it is not a database of primary source material)
  • Academic Search Premier (large database of principally secondary source material)
  • MLA Bibliography (bibliographic index of secondary sources in modern language and literature)

N. B. All the above sources can be searched online through the ASU Library website. You must go through this site in order to be validated to use these sources.


The sites below can be searched directly through the internet: