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Darwin and the Memory of the Human: Evolution, Savages, and South America

Overview

When the young Charles Darwin landed on the shores of Tierra del Fuego in 1832, he was overwhelmed: nothing had prepared him for the sight of what he called 'an untamed savage'. The shock he felt, repeatedly recalled in later years, definitively shaped his theory of evolution. In this original and wide-ranging study, In this book Cannon Schmitt shows how Darwin and other Victorian naturalists transformed such encounters with South America and its indigenous peoples into influential accounts of biological and ...

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Overview

When the young Charles Darwin landed on the shores of Tierra del Fuego in 1832, he was overwhelmed: nothing had prepared him for the sight of what he called 'an untamed savage'. The shock he felt, repeatedly recalled in later years, definitively shaped his theory of evolution. In this original and wide-ranging study, In this book Cannon Schmitt shows how Darwin and other Victorian naturalists transformed such encounters with South America and its indigenous peoples into influential accounts of biological and historical change. Redefining what it means to be human, they argue that the modern self must be understood in relation to a variety of pasts - personal, historical, and ancestral - conceived of as savage. Schmitt reshapes our understanding of Victorian imperialism, revisits the implications of Darwinian theory, and demonstrates the pertinence of nineteenth-century biological thought to current theorizations of memory.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The book is impressive in many ways - in particular, in its formal coherence and its brilliant attention to language. Schmitt is a remarkable reader, capable not only of making connections (which is what gives the book some of its formal power) but of making the language he stops to read for us alive with possibilities that casual reading would certainly miss. He never lets any passage lie still, and frequently he will offer a careful reading and then return again to plumb newer depths...[a] wonderful book."
-George Levine, nbol-19.org

"...a beautifully written, elegantly conceived contribution to the study of nineteenth-century evolutionary theory’s cultural implications."
-Kathy Alexis Psomiades, Criticism, Winter 2010, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 135–144.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Cannon Schmitt is Associate Professor of English at the University of Toronto.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Charles Darwin's savage mnemonics; 2. Alfred Russel Wallace's tropical memorabilia; 3. Charles Kingsley's recollected empire; 4. W. H. Hudson's memory of loss; Coda: some reflections.

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