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Galdós and Darwin

Galdós and Darwin

Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 198
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  • Book Info
    Galdós and Darwin
    Book Description:

    Despite the fact that Darwinian theory was perhaps the big idea of the nineteenth century, most critics in the past have assumed that Benito Pérez Galdós would have remained unaffected by this scientific and philosophical revolution. This work contends otherwise, charting the influence of evolutionary theories on Galdós throughout his literary career. From his adaptation of the early nineteenth-century costumbristas' depiction of social species into a more sophisticated portrayal of Madrid society to his treatment of shifting social forces at a time of major socio-economic change, Galdós's outlook is shown to be deeply enmeshed in the Darwinian debate. Attention is paid not only to the hypotheses of Darwin himself, but also for instance to Ernst Haeckel's evolutionary thought, to Herbert Spencer's social Darwinism, and to the radical histology of Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Galdós and Darwin discusses how Spain's greatest novelist since Cervantes imaginatively reworked these epoch-making theories and investigates the impact of science on culture as the Spanish nation approached the twentieth century. T. E. BELL completed his Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Nicholas Round at Sheffield University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-468-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    In theLondon Review of Booksa rather caustic article on a book entitledCan a Darwinian be a Christian?: The Relationship between Science and Religionsparked a swift rebuke from the author. The latter complained that the reviewer’s attitude really belonged to those people to whom the reviewer himself would be diametrically opposed, namely, Creationists, and that he was playing into their hands by insisting that Darwinism and Christianity were fundamentally incompatible. What is striking is not so much that this academic dispute is about a controversial issue (although in fact it is), but that the book concerned was...

    (pp. 9-66)

    Galdós’s use of social types who were representative of Spanish society was not new, and nor was the placing of these characters within a Darwinian social scheme. However, one of the aims of this study is to show that while some of those who preceded Galdós in both these areas were a direct influence upon him, and while Galdós may have taken many pointers from these literary predecessors, the Darwinian scheme of social species was a genuine point of departure for Galdós’s writing.

    Born in 1843, Galdós may have been aware of transformational if not evolutionary theories from a reasonably...

    (pp. 67-112)

    It is not difficult to see why the application of evolutionary theory to the processes of social change was attractive to people in the last half of the nineteenth century. Faith in science as a guarantor of social progress was widespread, and here was a scientific theory which seemed to confirm that belief. Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and to some extent Darwin himself all held that human society, like Nature, was inevitably advancing in a positive direction.¹ The nineteenth century in Spain was marked by political and social instability; the process of industrialisation there lagged far behind that of Spain’s...

    (pp. 113-148)

    Before assessing the impact of evolutionary theory on Galdós’s understanding of Spain’s perceived moral and spiritual deficit, it is pertinent to take an overview of contemporary society’s preoccupation with this problem. One important source of evidence in this area stems from nineteenth-century Spain’s self-examination, and in particular its reflection on a glorious past which had given way to a mediocre present. Darwin’s hypothesis about Spain’s decline as a nation inThe Descent of Mancould only serve to compound a pre-existing inferiority complex:

    Who can positively say why the Spanish nation, so dominant at one time, has been distanced in...

    (pp. 149-177)

    In this chapter I focus on how evolutionary theory challenged the pre-existing ideas of perception and aesthetics, and how Galdós’s writing charts this upheaval in aesthetic ideology, centring predominantly on the apparent clash between Platonic and Darwinian principles. Furthermore, Galdós’s choice of metaphor, particularly in relation to the body, is explored, as are his attempts to understand his own creativity within evolutionary and transformational terms. However, when considering how a sense of aesthetics may have been developed, it is necessary to note that in this case (that is when dealing with the natural sciences in the late nineteenth century), the...

    (pp. 178-180)

    It is significant that from early on in his writing career, Galdós was very consciously exploring evolutionary theory for literary purposes. This certainly does not preclude that at other times evolutionary theory finds its way into Galdós’s creativity, subconsciously or indirectly; certainly at times attempting to gauge the source of an idea may be as impossible (and unnecessary) for the reader as indeed it would have been for the author. In Galdós’s quest to create a Spanish novel worthy of comparison with the very best of the nineteenth-century European novel elsewhere, he made a point of working from within the...

    (pp. 181-186)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 187-189)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 190-190)