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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Chapter 6 - Mimetic desire and the return to origins in The Waste Land


Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, was recognized within a year of its appearance as a monument in natural philosophy. But it was much more than an event in the history of science. It effected a revolution in the social sciences, with enormous consequences for the arts, especially naturalism and modernism. Although sometimes associated with notions of discontinuity, Darwin's work was in fact a vindication of the great Newtonian principle of continuity. He succeeded where his predecessors failed in part because his hypothesis included the “missing link” that connected present to past and contemporary humans to their remotest ancestors. Throughout the rest of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth, scholars in the human sciences attempted to follow through on Darwin's claim that lost origins could be reconstructed through the use of surviving fragments. As Darwin claimed to have discovered the origin of species, they tried to find the origins of religion, society, and mind. In Religion of the Semites (1889), William Robertson Smith attempted to trace the evolution of the Jewish religion; in The Golden Bough (1890–1915), James G. Frazer tried to reconstruct the original all-encompassing myth; in Themis, Jane Harrison tried to track Greek religion to its roots; and in From Ritual to Romance (1920), Jessie Weston traced the Grail romances to primitive rituals.

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Gender, Desire, and Sexuality in T. S. Eliot
  • Online ISBN: 9780511485091
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