The purpose of this research is to examine the parallels and correspondences between the scientific paradigm of the time and the form the contemporary novel took, with particular emphasis on the realist, modernist, and postmodernist texts. The plan of the research will be to set forth a cultural context for the emergence of the scientific paradigm in literature, and then to demonstrate how literature and science overlapped and converged to shape literary form and content.
Downs characterizes Darwin's Origin of Species as one of the dozen or so scientific books that decisively changed the world, not just of science but of the culture as well. He quotes Julian Huxley writing a generation after Darwin on the human implications of Darwin's science:
Darwin's work has enabled us to see the position of man and of our present civilization in a truer light. Man is not a finished product incapable of further progress. He has a long history behind him, and it is a history not of a fall, but of an ascent. And he has the possibility of further progressive evolution before him. Further, in the light of evolution we learn to be more patient. The few thousand years of recorded history are nothing compared to the million years during which man has been on earth, and the thousand million years of life's progress. And we can afford to be patient when the astronomers assure us of at least another thousand million years ahead of us in which to carry evolution onwards to new heights (Downs, 1956, p. 174).
Embedded in this statement is a sensibility of inexorable progress, of a moral evolution arising as inevitably as a physical one. In other words, to speak of Darwinism is not to speak of biological observation but of the transformation of biology into sociology and, as we shall see, into humanistic theory. The sensibility was absorbed decisively in both Europe and America. As Loewenberg (1941, p. 339) notes of the American experience...