Thursday, March 15, 2012

Darwin the Writer

a book review by Edd Doerr

Darwin the Writer, by George Levine. Oxford University Press, 2011, 244 pp., $35.00.

This is not just another book about evolution, but a book about Darwin the man, the writer, the thinker, the scientist. In examining Darwin's classic On the Origin of Species, Levine, a professor of Victorian literature and an expert on the relations between science and literature, takes us on an extended tour through Darwin's head. Not only did Darwin produce the breakthrough and now well established theory of evolution through natural selection over bast expanses of time, but he did so in a book for ordinary readers of such transparency and step-by-step detail that put his ideas across in a way that no paper in a scientific journal could have.

Levine shows how Darwin takes the reader by the hand and walks him or her through Darwin's observations of geological ansd biological complexities during his long trip on the Beagle and subsequent studies of nature. We are shown "how" Darwin sold his new theory to a broad Victorian audience.

Moving on from the bare science of evolution, Levine shows how Darwin influenced such writers as Hardy, Conrad, Dreiser, Kipling, Wilde, Eliot and London.

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