Wanna Be Surprised?

The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories:
Exploring the Significance of Diversity

Welcome to the home page of a Biology, English, and College Seminar course
at Bryn Mawr College (Spring 2005).

"And so a strange new possibility is arising.
Compromised, indefinite, sketchy, but not entirely
obliterated: free will is making a comeback.
Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind."
Middlesex (p. 479)
We will experiment, in this course, with two interrelated and reciprocal inquiries: whether the biological concept of evolution is a useful one in understanding the phenomena of literature (in particular: the generation of new stories), and whether literature contributes to a deeper understanding of evolution. We will begin with an exploration of the basis for the "story" of evolution as developed by biologists, move on to a consideration of the relevance of the concept of evolution for making sense of other bodies of information and observations, and then turn to a consideration of one literary story growing out of another. We will ask repeatedly: Where do stories (scientific and literary) come from? Why do new ones emerge? What causes them to change? Why do (must?) some of them disappear? We will consider the parallels between diversity of stories and diversity of living organisms, and think about what new insights into evolution and literature emerge from such considerations.

This course is predicated on an assumption that progress on the sorts of questions being considered here is significant not only in the classroom but in a broader human context as well. Hence, the course is organized to contribute to public conversation, both by having a weekly on-line forum and by the on-line publication of course materials, including student papers. In considering the appropriateness of the course for their own educational objectives, students should be aware of this assumption and associated arrangements, and of the implications and obligations of engaging in a public arena, where individuals are responsible not only for their own education but that of others as well.

Letter to the Editor: Beyond Literary Darwinism
Photo Gallery: A Genuinely Evolutionary Experience
"My Great-Grandaddy was a Monkey": A Story by Britt Fremsted
"Meme": A Film by Haley Bruggemann and Eleanor Carey
Class Roster
Course Forum Area
Student Web Papers 1: Thinking about Biological Evolution
Student Web Papers 2: Thinking about Evolution Beyond the Context of Biology
Student Web Papers 3: Thinking about The Evolution of Literary Stories
Final Student Web Papers: Our Own New Stories
Paper Preparation and Submission
Instructions for Preparing Your Final Portfolio
Web Resources
A Hands-On, Interactive Approach to HTML
Place of the US in the World Community - Nov 04 Forum
Origin of Images
Course Requirements: Grading:
  • 1/6: participation in class and on-line conversations
  • 1/6 each: papers # 1, 2, 3
  • 1/3: final paper
In this class, we'll be exploring how diversity is fundamental to all levels of organization, in both biological and cultural systems. It will be clear, from that exploration, why we think a single grade will not adequately reflect your various, distinctive efforts in the class; nor do we think it will function as an adequate index to how you may perform in other contexts. We hope you'll regard this score as only one measure of your accomplishments, and take into account your own sense of how what you achieve here relates to your own goals. We're of course happy to discuss all these matters with you in conference.

Discussion Notes:

The images on these pages are reproduced with permission of Rieko Nakamura and Toshihiro Anzai; you can see a complete display of their work at http://www.renga.com which also explains that "Renga, or Linked Image, is a new methodology of image creation in the digital era. It was given birth at the intersection of art, telecommunication network and multimedia. Renga artists share and exchange computer graphics art works on telecommunication network. An image will turn into a new piece by going through modification and transformation applied by a different artist, thus creating a series of growing imagery."

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