This dissertation examines the intersection of William Wordsworth's influence and evolutionary theory---the nineteenth century's two defining representations of nature---in late Victorian literature and society. Victorian writers were sensitive to the compatibilities and conflicts between these philosophies, and Wordsworth's poetry was enlisted in arguments both for and against evolution. Creative writers and critics alike turned to the poet as an alternative or antidote to evolution, criticized and revised his poetry in response to this discourse, and synthesized elements of each to propose their own modified theories. In engaging with Wordsworth's influence in this way, these writers began to see literary influence and history in Darwinian terms. They viewed their engagement with Wordsworth and Darwin, which was both competitive and collaborative, as a struggle for literary survival and offspring as well as transformative encounters in their development. This model of "literary selection" synthesizes opposing influence theories, and differs from objectivist accounts of Darwinian cultural transmission through its emphasis on writers' subjectivities, idiosyncratic language, and conscious adoption and modification of evolutionary ideas in their literary relationships. The opening chapter surveys a broad range of critical and creative writing to demonstrate the prevalence of Wordsworth's and Darwin's intertwining influences in the period, and outlines the various ideological positions late Victorian writers occupied toward these entangled philosophies. The chapter explores these simultaneous influences in the work of Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charles Kingsley, and Emily Pfieffer along with a host of Victorian critics. The three central chapters provide in-depth demonstrations of this argument in the work of Matthew Arnold, George Eliot, and Robert Louis Stevenson, respectively. The final chapter moves beyond literature to read the late nineteenth-century conservation movement, in which The Wordsworth Society helped establish the National Trust to preserve the Lake District's landscape, as a conflict between Wordsworthian and Darwinian ideas.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2014. Major: English. Advisor: Andrew Elfenbein. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 188 pages.
Olsen, Trenton B..
Entangled Influence: Wordsworth and Darwinism in the Late Victorian Period.
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