6. Evolutionary Theory


In this meeting, we will discuss the early history of evolutionary theory, most notably the theory proposed by Charles Darwin.  We will begin with a short lecture.  We will follow this with a discussion of the Darwin Correspondence Project paying particular attention to the Darwin and Gender Project, which is a research theme under the umbrella of the overall project.  As part of this discussion, students will present PowerPoint presentations which analyze select letters by Charles Darwin.

By the end of this meeting, students will be able to:

  1. Give an overview of the main concepts that influenced Darwin’s theory.
  2. Summarize Darwin’s theory of evolution.
  3. Survey the early history of Darwinism.
  4. Provide close readings of primary documents that contextualizes them within their historical framework.


Reading Questions:

  1. What sorts of scientific work did men and women do, and for whom?
  2. Where did men and women typically carry out their work?
  3. Does Darwin communicate and work with women in the same way he does with men?
  4. What motivated men and women to correspond with Darwin and participate in the world of science?
  5. What do these letters tell us about the i) perceived expertise and ii) lived experiences of Victorian men and women?


Choose one of the reading questions above and put together a PowerPoint presentation that answers it.  The presentation should be less than three minutes, and it should offer a close reading of at least two letters to prove your argument.  Be sure to upload your PowerPoint and your notes to DropBox for grading.


Darwin, Darwinism, gender, Alfred Russell Wallace, Charles Lyell, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Erasmus Darwin, natural selection, Thomas Malthus


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