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The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories: EvoLit

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Anne Dalke's picture

Welcome to The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories, offered in Spring 2011 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that this is not a place for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're not worrying about "writing" but instead that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking, so you can help them think and they can help you think. The idea is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

We're glad you're here, and hope you'll come both to enjoy and value our shared imagining of the future evolution of ourselves as individuals and of our gendered, scientific, technological world. Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE....

the.believer's picture


 I find our class discussions very enjoyable! During the Tuesday class, we go over what we had posted on Serendip and I always take pleasure in sharing clips of my postings with the class. I get a chance to elaborate and express my thoughts in greater details, expanding on my originals thoughts from the online posting. In this aspect, I feel that I have contributed to the learning of others. When In our small groups, Professor Grobstein proposed ideas that seem ridiculous at first. I try to make sense of it with the class. After a full class discussion, the idea and concept are not ridiculous as I had thought!

jhercher's picture

Evolution. Actual evolution.

Someone posted a little earlier about how strange it was shifting back to thinking about biological evolution and actual natural selection after so much time  thinking about it being applied to other things like literature and, well, everything.  But, honestly, there's nothing for reaffirming one's belief in the power and beauty of evolution than in thinking about what changes it has affected in the natural world.  Recent studies done of Bonobo apes, some of the closest relatives to humans besides maybe chimpanzees, has shown that they are capable of many thinks we consider distinctly human.  Language jumps clearly to mind.  Other species have language, birds sing, whales communicate with each other, and all sorts of animals use sounds as a method for hunting, c

Dawn's picture

The Infinite Stories of English House

 Here are some of the stories you all told about English House:


Pink Notecards:

1The room is large and pale yellow – projector, chairs, bodies, screen, the cosmos, bright, warm, cookies, people writing, clementines, up the stairs, out the door, sounds of laughter from another classroom, sounds of laughter from our classroom, sneeze, bless you!


2There are cookies which taste good, sticking to my napkin and my fingers. Tiny chocolate stains I wipe away, transfer from skin to paper. Crumbs crushed in the creases, balled into my fist as I lick my lips.

the.believer's picture

Evolution in the mind of others?

 For my final presentation last Thursday, I showed an interview clip with a Haverford College Chemistry major. My thoughts before conducting this interview was to compare how I view evolution now and how someone outside the class would. I asked him five questions which were questions we had pondered and discussed aloud in class.

Questions Asked

1. What are the first 3 words that come into mind when u think of evolution?


the.believer's picture

Evolution in the mind of others?

cr88's picture

The Novel as Experiment


Lethologica's picture

Endings and Beginnings

Normal 0 false false false EN-US ZH-CN AR-SA

Lethologica's picture

Final Presentation: Catagories

To begin with I was both certain and uncertain of what I wanted to do for my final presentation. I had decided right off that I didn't want to just do a basic presentation, figuring that the class (and myself) would appreciate something more interesting, and almost immediately, my mind was cast back (though I don't know why...) to an eleventh grade english class that had made quite an impact on me. We had been reading The Handmaid's Tale, a novel that was known for its strange uncertainty of chronology, and my teacher had handed my class a bunch of excerpts from the book and asked us to put them in the right order.

Lethologica's picture

Questions of Reality--Questions of Illusion

So this is a bit late, but there's something that's been bugging me, and I feel that I just need to get it out there. I'll begin with this image:

And this one:

And this as well:

How does one tell illusion from reality?

Paul Grobstein's picture

Evolit and beyond: more grist

 From American West as Classroom, Art, and Metaphor (NY Times 4 May 2011)  

OrganizedKhaos's picture

Final Presentation: The Joys of Randomness

       For our project we had a lot of debate and discussion about what we felt was important to each one of us throughout the semester as well as the important topics for the group. In addition to that dilemma, we had no idea of how we wanted to present the information. We know it had to be fun and standing up in from of the class going through slides, like we would have done in other classes, was not an option. It was time to be innovative, creative, and go out with a bang.

mgz24's picture

Agency and Purpose

 As I go through exam week I can't help returning to the idea of purpose and its importance.  I remember in one of our discussions we talked about whether we needed things in life to have a purpose.  My original thought was that I only need purpose for certain things.  I used the example of running.  I hate to run, but I'm an athlete so I don't really have a choice.  I explained that when I have a reason for running, for instance in a game, or to prepare for a season, I can get through a long run, whereas if it's just running to run I can't force myself to do it.  Versus just hanging out somewhere or sitting outside, which I don't need a specific purpose for doing.  I'm starting to think now though, that maybe purpose is kind of like agency.

Cremisi's picture

The Ouroboros

   Though this is a bit delayed, (I've finally learned how to post the video I wanted to post) I wanted to have a quick discussion on the Ouroboros. I've been rather curious about it even since we briefly discussed it in class earlier. When I think of the ouroboros, the ouroboros seems like an ominous symbol used by cults where the members, shrouded in dark cloaks, stand around a pit of fire and chant songs in Latin. I've become especially interested in the history of the ouroboros to see where it came from and what it even means. 

Cremisi's picture

Final Presentation: Forrest Gump, Lord Jim, and Even Natalie Portman's Shaved Head...

  In our final presentation we attempted to create a game that blended the concept of natural selection with the “natural selection” of literature or memetic phrases, movies, or music. We used spoons, forks, knives, cups, and coffee beans to conduct this activity. We dumped coffee beans onto the floor, and after we had given either a fork, spoon, or knife to each individual, we asked them to collect the coffee beans and put them into the cup. We expected that the spoons would be able to collect the most beans the most efficiently, then the forks, and lastly the knives.

Lynn's picture

Evolution in a Biological Context

 Madness, I know. We've been thinking of evolution in so many other, more abstracted contexts, that I, at least, had kind of forgotten about biology. I've been watching nature documentaries this week, though, and aside from the narrator's worrying fascination with snakes, they've been pretty good. But the buzzwords that we spent many weeks debunking - progress, advancement, purpose - have been appearing in these documentaries every few minutes. It's interesting; the understanding of evolution that I now have (and take for granted) is completely absent from these movies.

mgz24's picture

Blurred lines

As we have discussed over the course of the semester, the line between science and literature is now blurred.  Or at least is partially blurred.  As we spoke in our closing classes about our final reflections and what we had learned over the course of the semester I thought a lot about all of those lines separating the 2 disciplines.  I finally came to the conclusion that some of the lines are blurred, but there are still some very concrete borders.  I think in the broader arena, the purpose of this class isn't necessarily what I've learned specifically about evolution, but rather the importance of thinking in different ways.

rachelr's picture

Our Interactive Presentation

 For our final presentation to share with the class what we learned from this class hope, elly, skindeep, hannahgisele and I had the class head outside and set up in a line, what would become a spectrum. We each formulated a statement from each of our 5 texts (beginning with Darwin and ending with Adaptation) and read them to our classmates one at a time, asking them for each question to orient themselves on our imaginary between "agree" and one end and "disagree" at the other. We then asked them to talk amongst themselves about why they chose the place on the spectrum that they did, and invited them to move if they changed their minds after the discussion.

rachelr's picture

Uncertainty is neutral

 In preparing to finish up my portfolio for this class I was looking back through some of my most recent notes and noticed, amongst my  notes about "vacilando" a small bullet point. Paul told us that "uncertainty is neutral" and that it favors no one. I learned in this class that the answer to all of Paul's questions is "randomness," so applying that here it, an outcome as dictated by the laws of randomness is just as likely to turn out favorable as unfavorable. While we as humans have no say in which outcome it is, if you believe in either agency or fate, there is only one way out of the two that it can turn out. This reminded me of a strip from Calvin & Hobbes that I can remember reading as a child and totally agreeing with.

Lynn's picture

Final Presentation

Avery Larson

Final Performance Write-Up

mgz24's picture

A set format

In our last small group meeting we talked a lot about the set format that exists in academic writing, and why that is.  We said that there are selection pressures on those papers and that they need to be in that set format to remain as objective as possible, so that they will be accepted and respected in their given academic field.  This made me think about memoirs, and in particular the memoirs that have in the recent past been outed as fiction.  A Million Little Pieces and 3 Cups of Tea were both highly respected, immensely popular memoirs that were later proved to be fiction.  The uproar surrounding both of these stories was not about the writing style, or the stories that were told, but rather that fictional stories were portrayed to be true.