[Hey, I'm Paul Craft. Please forgive me for being behind on the blog postings. Much like Darwin himself, I am currently spending my youth in South America- namely, the Stanford-in-Santiago Center. Also like Darwin, any news from back home takes at least a month by sea.]
Darwin's scientific legacy is indisputable. But what about Darwin the writer? An article from today' Slate Magazine briefly examines Darwin's written legacy. According to the author, intellectuals have come to appreciate the literary prowess of Darwin's works. In other words, an appreciation for not just the biological theories born from Darwin's books, but a more specific interest in the texts themselves.
From a recent New Yorker article to a new book by (of course) Janet Browne, an image of Darwin as the tortured poet has taken hold. His life seems to conform perfectly to classically troubled years of many a writer: an aimless youth, an epic journey of discovery, inspiration, massive writer's block, years of tortured procrastination (""Darwin's Delay is by now nearly as famous as Hamlet's," quipped the New Yorker) , an eventual breakthrough, competition, controversial fame, and more.
Clearly this reenergized interest in the actual works of Darwin fits squarely into the goals of our class: understanding not just the ideas, but the contexts and origins of the ideas. Stripped of the hindisight of history- the adendments to the theories, the great debates years after Darwin's death, the new scientific discoveries- much of Darwin's story is indeed the story of a writer: the struggle to write, the process of writing, and then the defense of what was written.