|1||Bob Harkins Branch||576.82 FUL||Book||Adult General Collection|
A compelling portrait of a unique moment in American history when the ideas of Charles Darwin reshaped American notions about nature, religion, science and race
"A lively and informative history." - The New York Times Book Review
Throughout its history America has been torn in two by debates over ideals and beliefs. Randall Fuller takes us back to one of those turning points, in 1860, with the story of the influence of Charles Darwin's just-published On the Origin of Species on five American intellectuals, including Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, the child welfare reformer Charles Loring Brace, and the abolitionist Franklin Sanborn.
Each of these figures seized on the book's assertion of a common ancestry for all creatures as a powerful argument against slavery, one that helped provide scientific credibility to the cause of abolition. Darwin's depiction of constant struggle and endless competition described America on the brink of civil war. But some had difficulty aligning the new theory to their religious convictions and their faith in a higher power. Thoreau, perhaps the most profoundly affected all, absorbed Darwin's views into his mysterious final work on species migration and the interconnectedness of all living things.
Creating a rich tableau of nineteenth-century American intellectual culture, as well as providing a fascinating biography of perhaps the single most important idea of that time, The Book That Changed America is also an account of issues and concerns still with us today, including racism and the enduring conflict between science and religion.
Randall Fuller is the author of From Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature , which won the Phi Beta Kappa's Christian Gauss Award for best literary criticism, and Emerson's Ghosts: Literature, Politics, and the Making of Americanists . He has written for The New York Times , The Wall Street Journal , and other publications, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the Chapman Professor of English at the University of Tulsa.
Publisher's Weekly Review
In this inventive work, which weaves two powerful events into a vibrant tapestry of antebellum intellectual life, Fuller (From Battlefields Rising), professor of English at the University of Tulsa, beautifully describes how the engagement by a group of Transcendentalists with Darwin's newly published On the Origin of Species deepened their commitment to the antislavery movement. Still reeling from abolitionist John Brown's 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, Transcendentalists (and Brown supporters) Franklin Sanborn, Charles Loring Brace, Bronson Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau quickly devoured Darwin's book and recommended it to others. All people were biologically related, Darwin's work hinted, which Transcendentalists interpreted as a repudiation of the belief that "African-American slaves were a separate, inferior species." Fuller shares the Transcendentalists' knack for clearly presenting complex ideas. He nimbly traverses the details of the scientific debate between Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz and Asa Gray over the theories of polygenism and evolution. There's a glimpse of Louisa May Alcott, inspired by Darwin's book to write a daring story of interracial love. Elegant writing and an unusual approach to interpreting the time period make this a must-read for everyone interested in Civil War-era history. Illus. Agent: Marianne Merola, Brandt & Hochman Literary. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Published during an extraordinarily turbulent time in the history of the United States-just prior to the Civil War and just after John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry-Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) would prove to have a significant impact on the country. Fuller (English, Univ. of Tulsa; From Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature) introduces the subject, focusing on a dinner party consisting of four of the most important America intellectuals and abolitionists of the time: Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, Charles Loring Brace, Amos Bronson Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau. During the gathering, Brace presented a copy of Darwin's seminal work. The title would profoundly affect them all, especially because it seemed to support abolitionism and unsettle their personal beliefs. By positing a common ancestor for all living creatures and intimating that all human beings were biologically related, Darwin demonstrated to proponents of slavery that they could no longer justify the institution with the assertion that blacks belonged to a different species than whites. Fuller is a skilled author who expertly describes the setting and the tension of the era. His -informative volume reads like a novel. VERDICT This fascinating account is recommended for those interested in literature, science, or 18th-century American history. [See -Prepub Alert, 7/25/16.]-Dave Pugl, Ela Area P.L., Lake Zurich, IL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
|Part I Origins|
|1 The Book from Across the Atlantic||p. 3|
|2 Gray's Botany||p. 13|
|3 Beetles, Birds, Theories||p. 18|
|4 Word of Mouth||p. 29|
|5 Making a Stir||p. 43|
|6 A Night at the Lyceum||p. 51|
|7 The Nick of Time||p. 63|
|Part II Struggles|
|8 Bones of Contention||p. 79|
|9 Agassiz||p. 84|
|10 The What-Is-It?||p. 96|
|11 A Spirited Conflict||p. 107|
|12 Into the Vortex||p. 116|
|13 Tree of Life||p. 128|
|14 A Jolt of Recognition||p. 136|
|15 Wildfires||p. 147|
|Part III Adaptations|
|16 Discord in Concord||p. 161|
|17 Moods||p. 172|
|18 Meditations in a Garden||p. 181|
|19 The Succession of Forest Trees||p. 190|
|20 Races of the Old World||p. 196|
|21 A Cold Shudder||p. 204|
|Part IV Transformations|
|22 At Down House||p. 219|
|23 The Ghost of John Brown||p. 231|
|4 In the Transcendental Graveyard||p. 242|
|Selected Bibliography||p. 277|