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Romanticism, Origins, and the History of Heredity

Christine Lehleiter

At the turn of the eighteenth century, selfhood was understood as a “tabula rasa” to be imprinted in the course of an individual’s life. By the middle of the nineteenth-century, however, the individual had become defined as determined by heredity already from birth. Examining novels by Goethe, Jean Paul, and E.T.A. Hoffmann, studies on plant hybridization, treatises on animal breeding, and anatomical collections, Romanticism, Origins, and the History of Heredity delineates how romantic authors imagined the ramifications of emerging notions of heredity for the conceptualization of selfhood. Focusing on three fields of inquiry—inbreeding and incest, cross-breeding and bastardization, evolution and autopoiesis—Christine Lehleiter proposes that the notion of selfhood for which Romanticism has become known was not threatened by considerations of determinism and evolution, but was in fact already a result of these very considerations. Romanticism, Origins and the History of Heredity will be of interest for literary scholars, historians of science, and all readers fascinated by the long durée of subjectivity and evolutionary thought. « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / Bucknell University Press
Pages: 338Size: 6 x 9
978-1-61148-565-3 • Hardback • October 2014 • $105.00 • (£70.00)
978-1-61148-623-0 • Paperback • March 2017 • $49.99 • (£32.95)
978-1-61148-566-0 • eBook • October 2014 • $49.99 • (£32.95)
Christine Lehleiter is assistant professor of German at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on literature and the life sciences.
List of Illustrations
Notes on Translations
Introduction: Between Freedom and Determination
One: The Discovery of Heredity
Two: Incest and Inbreeding
Three: Cross-breeding and Hybridization
Four: From Blood to Trauma
About the Author
This work has the potential to change the landscape of Romantic literary studies, and its careful attention to scientific accuracy will let it serve as a model for those scholars who wish to make a serious contribution to the broad field defined by intersections of literature and science.

Lehleiter’s highly original monograph is the first to examine the German novel of the turn of the nineteenth century in the context of the debates on biological heredity (ranging from plant and animal breeding to early theories of evolution) taking place in the later eighteenth century in England, France, and Germany.
Jane K. Brown, University of Washington