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This article proposes a way of linking textual form and the social world. The forms in question are the notebooks of Gerard Manley Hopkins, specifically those he kept between 1866 and 1875, a period that begins with his conversion to Catholicism, initiation into Jesuit training, and rejection of poetry. These five notebooks (A1–A5) have struck some readers as intensely asocial. Their creator was famously resistant to circulation and readership, on one hand (“Please not to read,” he inscribes on the inside front cover of the first), and more concerned with natural than human phenomena, on the other. I show instead that the notebooks project networks of relation between humans, objects, and the natural world. My hope is that what follows will refresh some of the ways we think about and navigate online social forms in the twenty-first century.
There has been much recent research activity on the evolution of morality (Chapters 10 and 11, this volume; Haidt, 1993; Hauser, 2006; Krebs, 2011; Kurzban & DeScioli, 2009; Ridley, 1996; Wright, 1994), with most tending to focus upon the paradoxical behavior in situations in which a moral actor incurs a personal cost in order to help nonrelatives. This is paradoxical because, from an evolutionary point of view, any genes that produce a behavior that benefits nonrelatives at the expense of the individual in which those genes reside should find themselves at a fitness disadvantage and therefore would die out. In short, such behaviors should not evolve. This is, of course, a familiar problem, one that was discussed at length by Trivers (1971) under the guise of the evolution of altruism.