The Creative Evolution of Scientific Paradigms: Vernon Lee and the Debate over the Hereditary Transmission of Acquired Characters

Towheed, Shafquat (2006). The Creative Evolution of Scientific Paradigms: Vernon Lee and the Debate over the Hereditary Transmission of Acquired Characters. Victorian Studies, 49(1) pp. 33–61.

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Abstract

By the end of the nineteenth century, evolution through natural selection had been widely accepted, but the means by which innate or acquired characteristics were transmitted from parent to offspring remained hotly contested. As the literary career of Vernon Lee makes evident, discussion of the validity of newly espoused theories was not limited to science. This essay explores Lee's lifelong engagement with emerging and often unproven ideas in heredity and evolutionary science by arguing, first, that rather than a unidirectional flow of ideas from experimental science to literature and the social sciences, there was instead a productive and creative trafficking between these fields; and, second, that despite Lee's early rejection of Lamarckism, she continued to utilize superseded paradigms to inform her writing in a number of fields outside evolutionary biology.

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