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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Unnatural selections: Linguistic preservation and divine origins in the age of Darwin and the OED
by Hermes, Margaret, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2009, 268; 3390318
Abstract (Summary)

The first chapter argues that the Oxford English Dictionary shared Darwinian evolutionary theory’s objective and descriptivist model, recasting philology and lexicography as sciences whose purpose was to catalogue language and linguistic change with minimal editorial intrusion. By contrast, this dissertation finds that nineteenth century literary language operated less objectively, remaining a repository of belief in the divine or mysterious in an increasingly positivist age. The dissertation’s final three chapters examine specific word choices by writers whose own religious beliefs vary in their degree of orthodoxy: John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charles Kingsley, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy and Olive Schreiner. Though none of these writers rejects science, they each indicate, in themes and language, the importance of preserving beliefs and habits of mind that transcend rationality. Thus, this dissertation connects literary diction to larger questions of belief in linguistic, and, by extension, human origins beyond the knowable material world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Miller, Andrew H.
Commitee: Adams, Michael, Marsh, Joss, Sterrenburg, Lee
School: Indiana University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: British and Irish literature
Keywords: Darwin, Charles, Evolution, Nineteenth century, OED, Oxford English Dictionary, Philology, Religion
Publication Number: 3390318
ISBN: 978-1-109-58718-0
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