Biology as ideology: The masking discourse of evolution in Hardy, Wells, and Conrad

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Patrick McCarthy - Committee Chair


Recent scholarship has begun to tear down the distinction between Darwinism and social Darwinism by arguing that science can never be wholly divorced from ideology; in other words, evolutionary theory has been "social" from the very beginning. Thus, whether consciously or not, fiction writers, along with nonfiction writers, have at times used scientific theories as a means of expounding personal ideology and consolidating their culturally superior positions. I explore some of the concepts and implications of evolutionary theory as they appear in the works of Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, and Joseph Conrad. The themes, techniques, characters, and imagery of Hardy, a naturalist, Wells, a writer of scientific romance, and Conrad, a modernist, were shaped in part by their reaction to the theories of Darwin and other men of science. I argue that preoccupation with evolutionary theory and precepts screens other concerns: class, race, and gender connections and the displacement of European man from the center of the universe. Unlike the existing scholarship on evolutionary theory in fiction, my dissertation addresses the Edwardian period, a transitional time between the optimistic and reassuring Victorian view of progress and the modernist crisis-centered view of the decay and imminent collapse of civilization, and ties evolutionary theory to the social and political turmoil of the time.


History of Science; Literature, English

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