Thursday, September 9, 2010

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus & Information
Be up-to-date with the following reading schedule and you will be ahead of lecture.
Nb 1.] This is a schedule for student readings; not a schedule of lecture material.
Nb 2.] Lecture is not a Procrustean bed : week by week, lecture will follow the developing class interests and course dynamic; all material will, sublimely, be covered by course end.

Reading Schedule

Week 1: Darwin, On the Origin of Species
-Charles Darwin's origins: natural selection, & biological Whiggism. Darwinism`s effects on the British class system.
Week 2: Darwin, On the Origin of Species
-Sexual selection. Victorian mores in biology. Social Darwinism.
Week 3: Swift, Gulliver's Travels
-18th & 19th C. reactions against the Enlightenment project. Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, the 'new science' and scientism.
Week 4: Swift, Gulliver's Travels`
-Forms of Irony. Gulliver and the Augustan movement. Satire and Rationalism.
Week 5: Butler, "The Deadlock in Darwinism" in Essays
-The history of evolution in biology, and the search for a settled evolutionary position in the Origin.
Week 6: Butler, "The Deadlock in Darwinism" in Essays`
-Neo-Darwinism, 'Charles-Darwinism' and Lamarkianism: habit vs instinct, 'use & dis-use' and the question of will.
Week 7: Shaw, Back to Methuselah
-Guest lecture and the favourable contributions of Darwin the intellectual.
Week 8: Shaw, Back to Methuselah
-Social criticisms of Darwin from the Rationalist & Socialist positions: Fabians vs Darwin.
Week 9: Chesterton, Orthodoxy
-T.H. Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce: 'Apes & Angels.' The evolution of theological engagements with Darwin. Tories on evolution.
Week 10: Chesterton, Orthodoxy
-Darwin, theology and empiricism (vs. rationalism): Plato, Hume and Quine. The Whig doctrine of progress.
Week 11: Gissing, Our Friend the Charlatan
 -Natural selection as theme in Victorian literature: Tennyson and Hardy. Gissing's background.
Week 12: Gissing, Our Friend the Charlatan.
The truce in the Darwinism-Christianity conflict at the close of the 19th C. T.H. Huxley "Evolution & Ethics." Sexual selection and the rise of the "New Woman".
Week 13: Recapitulation & Summation

Assignment Deadlines
Nb: There is a twenty-five percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the essay. The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone. For any matter effecting deadlines, consult with the TA in person and before the assignment period.

Schedule of Assignment Due Dates
(Assignments coded by colour. See separate assignment posts for details.)

September 9th, Class Compendium Project group members set.
September 23rd, Class Compendium Project overview due in class.
September 30th, Mid Term Creative Evaluation Essay Topic posted online.
October 21st Mid Term Essay due in class.
November 21st Evaluative Response due online. [Updated.]
December 2nd, Final Paper due in class.
December 6th, Class Compendium Project due online.

Nb: “Participation (10% of course grade) requires punctual attendance and productive participation."

Instructor Contact:
Office Hours: Room AQ5128 -- Thursdays 9:20-10:30 PM. E-mail to

Course Approach:

"[Neither Christianity nor Atheism but] an equally ancient faith .... rooted in the Socratic dialogues. It is the faith that human beings, reasoning together in a disciplined way, are capable of reaching shared understandings that are not merely intelligent, but also practicable and spiritually uplifting. This form of rationalism uses both rigorous scholarship and discursive analysis, i.e. dialectic, to seek out the conceptual basis for action. This rationalism was bequeathed to the world by Socrates himself, and has been reaffirmed by the greatest modern thinkers. My faith is that the deepest magic of our civilisation has arisen from Socratic rationalism, and that this can happen again now.
Socratic rationalism holds that most people are capable are capable of seeing the highest truths and of acting well when they do."
Bruce K. Alexander, The Globalisation of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit. Oxford University Press, 2009.

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