-What are the central tenets?
The main idea of the text is that Darwin’s theory of evolution caused a big impact in the lives and thoughts of the people of the nineteenth century. Thus, this is shown it the literary works of that time.
Before Darwin’s theory of evolution everything was explained by religion. With the idea that God was not in control, as people once thought, and that following the path of God was not going to make you richer or stronger, but instead only evolution could do that. This created a big impact in the way people at the time started to think. This shift in thought influenced politics, religion, life style, and literature, among other things.
Many authors, such as Herbert Spencer, Bishop Colenso, and Charles Lyell, wrote books based on the positive side of Darwin’s theory. They offered a liberating idea of human change and progress.
However, there were other authors, such as Max Nordau, who, based on Darwin’s theory, created the idea of degeneration. Peter Childs states that degeneration “… was a term used to describe a sense of a social status quo under threat from the freer values of a younger generation skeptical about the worth of their society’s strictures on morality, customs and proprieties, especially sexual, raising fears over chastity, homosexuality or same-sex love, perversity, masturbation, morbidity and syphilis.”
Which in resume, means that some people believed that the idea of revolution would destroy civilization for the fact that if people start believing that God is not in control, and this is the survival of the fittest, one will become selfish and not care about the community, only about him or herself. Therefore, this could result in a decline in morality and in civilization.
Then came the “social Darwinism [that] argued that human society can improve and evolve in the same way that species do, but societies too therefore have their origins and their antecedents. Just as apes are considered to be related but under-evolved humans, so then in the 1890s are non-European societies perceived as related but underdeveloped or degenerate civilization” (Peter Childs). With beliefs such as this, scientific racism was born. Thoughts that evolution was not a synonym with progress created a need for civilization to end degeneration.
-How did they influence Modern literature?
Authors usually write about their surroundings, what is happening in their community, what is their feeling or opinion about a topic, and so on.
Therefore, many of the Modern literature are influenced by the occurrences of the 19th and early 20th century, such as human development, degeneration, and depravity.
H.G. Well, for example, published his book that envisioned both the...