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First-Year Research Seminar: Writing Evolution

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number FIRST-UG748
Section 001
Instructor Anne DeWitt
Days TR
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


Although  On the Origin of Species  was published more than 150 years ago, evolution remains a controversial theory: inspiring to some, disturbing to others, and provocative to many. This class is about how people have used writing to argue over evolution, to understand it, and to imagine its implications—a topic that students will investigate in seminar discussions and through their own writing. We begin with the Origin, asking how Darwin’s prose seeks to persuade his readers. Next, we consider how Darwin’s ideas are taken up and transformed by writers of narrative fiction, reading H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds (1897) and Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love (1997) alongside texts about social Darwinism and evolutionary psychology. The second half of the course builds towards students’ independent research papers by surveying the impact of evolutionary ideas in a wide range of disciplines: we may consider Richard Dawkins’s concept of the cultural meme; the impact of evolution on ideas about society and ethics; and the spread of evolutionary ideas through popular media.


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Course Type

First-Year Program: Research Seminars (FIRST-UG)