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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....

Lynn's picture

More Babel

 I don't know if our class is obsessed with the Library of Babel, or if I, personally, am obsessed with it, but once again I have Babel on the mind. A book I read a few days ago was in the habit of throwing the word "destiny"  around as though it meant something, and I'm wondering if destiny and Babel aren't inter-related. Would a finite number of possibilities in this universe imply destiny, or would it negate the idea? If a person can only choose from so many options, perhaps the option that she chooses in therefore "destiny" - or, if there are an infinite number of options, perhaps the option that she invents is possible only because it is her "destiny".

phyllobates's picture

Should it Matter that a Story is Fiction?

 Should it matter if a story is based on real life or should we only care that the emotions and plot lines represent a cohesive reality

ckosarek's picture

Ending With a Violent Game - Our Final Presentation

 As a recap, for our final presentation my group created a Darwinian game in which players were given a utensil and timed for thirty seconds while they tried to get as many coffee beans from a communal pile into their cups. We meant to eliminate the lowest coffee bean-grossing players over more rounds, but found ourselves strapped for time and did two rounds instead. 

kgrass's picture

The Evolution Game

For our presentation, Kristin, Cassie, Laura, and I had the class play an evolution game—with a twist. Three teams were created, with an even amount of forks, knives, and spoons distributed. Two rounds were played, in which people had to collect as many coffee beans using their plastic utensils in a certain amount of time. At the end of the round, the top eight people from each group were able to survive to the next round. Some utensils randomly “died” during the first round as well. After the second round, the two people who collected the most coffee beans in the group “survived”, while all of the other utensils “died”. The twist of the project came at the end, in which literary memes came into play. On all of the utensils, we had written memetic phra

themword's picture

Final Presentation

Here is the link to our video:

Lynn's picture

Mathematical Proof (Breakdown)

 This is a more thorough explanation of the project I presented today. I realize that I skimmed over the actual calculations I did, but I only had five minutes and wasn't certain how interested people would be. 

Anyway, here is the breakdown, along with snapshots of the pictures I used during hte presentation, and a screenshot of the file I created to check my calculations. If you find this at all interesting, take a course in Linear Algebra. It's fantastic. I'm shamelessly promoting it here. :)

Poppyflower's picture

Final Presentation: Our Story of Evolution

alexandrakg's picture

Final Presentation: Our Story of Evolution

Tibetan Sand Mandala Video

the.believer's picture

The Infinite Story

 While I found all the presentations to be interesting, I was most piqued by the creative story writing and its connections to the tree of evolution. I like the idea of how I can start a story and see its development as each person contributes a piece to make the story whole. It makes me reflect on my contributions to evolution. Am I creating a story during my lifetime that gets passed on and continued by my children and their children and so on... The story created by my ancestors, are my current actions contributing to it? How am I shaping this story? Where is the origin? The end? I find myself thinking a lot the elements of a story - the various characters, plot, climax and anticlimax. How does these elements come into play when the story is infinite?

Cremisi's picture

Spicing up the Science Section

 This may be a little late, but I was lying in bed this morning thinking about the presentation of scientific theories and I was instantly reminded of the discussion we had in our small groups last Thursday. Though we spoke of a lot and wrapped everything up, a section we focused on was how we (well, the majority of us) would perhaps like science a bit more if it were presented in a more interesting way.

hlehman's picture

The Tree of Life- the movie!

I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this before, but I was reading The New York Times online this morning and saw an ad for this movie.  The title immediately sparked my interest and after reading a few plot descriptions online, I think it relates well to our course and some of the themes we have discussed.  It stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn and comes out on May 27th.  Here is the link to the trailer.  

tangerines's picture

tangerines' Final Performance description: Look How Far We've Come!

Below are my notes for my final performance. I’ve also attached the images I used, in the order that I mention them.

As I tried to figure out how to “perform” what I’ve learned, I realized that I can’t show what I’ve learned without showing what we have learned together as a class. This is because everything that I’ve learned has been affected by every other member of this class, whether through discussion, online posts, or web events. So, I thought the best place to begin was with Anne, on the first day of class (after shopping period).

What ideas were on our minds at the beginning of the semester?

1st image, Anne’s notes on the first day. Reactions…?

ems8140's picture

Final Presentation

In terms of evolution and all that we have learned this year. Where would one place the following concepts within the categories of science, English, or both?

jhercher's picture

Response to presentation in class...

I think the idea of people, alone or in small groups, doing a creative presentation this final week was a great idea.  We've all had such different, interpretive responses to what we've gone over in class (it's a topic that people have very passionate and disparate responses to), so it's interesting to see how people have responded with their presentations. 

AnnaP's picture

AnnaP's Final Presentation Write-up

My final project was a collaborative one with cr88, in which we created word clouds of the full texts of The Plague and The Origin of Species to look at 1) the differences and commonalities between scientific and literary texts, as embodied by this bizarre representational form, and 2) different forms of literary analysis outside of the ones we are used to and how they can be useful. These were the images we produced:

The Origin of Species

elly's picture

Presentation Evaluation

      For our presentation, my group conducted a barometer exercise similar to those that may be seen at the Posse retreat or in education classes on campus.

ewashburn's picture

Presenting the Human Condition

 One of the things this class has really made me think about is what it means to be human. That is to say, what it means to have agency as a human, and how our actions affect the world around us. We've discussed how we as human beings are slowly but surely destroying the world we live in, how we're becoming our own evolutionary forces by developing technologies, how we have agency, how we don't have agency, how it doesn't matter whether we do, how we shape the world around us and how we force our interpretations onto the world. Through these discussions, I've come to realize that I am very much a humanist. I believe strongly in our own agency, and I recognize our enormous capacity both for good and for ill.

katlittrell's picture

A co-constructed story

For our presentation, we organised the class into groups of roughly twelve and asked them to write the sentence "Once upon a time, Jamie was walking down the street when..." . We gave them 30 seconds to continue the story before asking them to pass it to the person on their left, who then had 30 seconds to continue the story and so on and so forth. We then read out two of the stories to demonstrate the ways in which they had diverged from identical beginnings.



Below are four of the 30-40 stories which resulted from the same sentence:


Poppyflower's picture

Am I Important?

On Thursday, we discussed how many people used to feel that they all had a role to play in the scheme of the universe, but how in more modern times, people started to feel that the individual does not play that important of a role. While I think that some of us might not have the biggest role to play, I think that we all somehow influence the lives of others. Even the smallest, and most seemingly unimportant person can affect the lives of those around them. And because much of the time the effect of that person on the life of another is indirect, as in the person being influenced does not realize it, many are therefore left to think that they have reached their current place in life completely without help or influence.

skindeep's picture

library of babel - an idea that should have come to mind a while ago

it seems like a lot of people have been revisiting the library of babel, which seeing that its nearing the end of the semester makes sense i guess.

seeing that so many people were writing about it, made me briefly skim through it in my mind and i realized something. as i remember it one of the strongest reasons people seemed to be uncomfortable with the idea of such a place existing was because it would mean that no one could ever create anything new - because it had already been predestined to exist or already existed in another form somewhere in the stacks of this library.