Anna Neill’s Human Evolution and Fantastic Victorian Fiction


  • Shantanu Majee


Situating itself amidst a legacy of titles that have made significant contributions to the field of Darwinism in literature, spanning across classics like Gillian Beer’s Darwin’s Plots (1983) as well as Stephen Jay Gould’s Ever Since Darwin (1977) and The Panda’s Thumb (1980), Anna Neill’s latest publication explores the intersectionalities between nineteenth-century British sf and the racist temporalities of Victorian evolutionary anthropology. In her interpretations of “fantastic” Victorian and Edwardian fictions, Neill analyzes anthropological ideas about race, culture, and species difference through her reading of a variety of literary forms: utopia, dystopia, nonsense, Gothic horror, and the peculiar hybrid forms of the modern fairy tale or children’s fable. Strange twists of plot in such tales determine evolutionary fortunes or imaginatively manipulate deep antiquity as well as the distant future.