The Representation of Evolution and Degeneration in Two Fin de Siècle Novels.
The question of man’s place in nature was core to fin de siècle discourse. Faith in the ever-progressing nature of evolution – with man as its ultimate manifestation – became increasingly challenged by the notion of degeneration, which implied that humanity might find itself becoming less complex and more primitive just as easily as that it would find itself continuing to advance. The growing fear for degeneration and its consequences was reflected in contemporary literature as well. This thesis will analyse how the themes of evolution and degeneration are represented in two fin de siècle novels, and how these representations interpret the position of modern human civilisation in relation to its primitive origins. To this purpose it will look at the interaction between the past and the present as well as the primitive and the modern in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) and sir Arthur Conan Doy! le’s Th e Lost World (1912).
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