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Darwin vs. Wallace: When Poetry Dies and When Poetry Survives in the Not-So-Natural Selection of Memetic Evolution

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The theory of memetic evolution – explaining the reproduction of cultural units called memes – illuminates the decline of poetry as a cultural presence by clarifying the contrasting attitudes towards poetry manifested by the co-discoverers of natural selection: Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. Darwin’s eventual indifference to poetry can be traced to an all-absorbing faith in science that extinguishes poetry-favouring memes (such as religious beliefs, memories of the ‘useless’ past and reflections on inexplicable mysteries). In contrast, Wallace’s abiding passion for poetry reflects a surprising insistence on the limits of science, an insistence that protects poetry-sustaining memes.
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Keywords: Alfred Wallace; Charles Darwin; memes; poetry; religion; science

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: English Department,Southern Utah University, Cedar CityUtah, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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