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Performance and Evolution in the Age of Darwin – Out of the Natural Order

Performance and Evolution in the Age of Darwin – Out of the Natural Order

Jane R. Goodall


“Performance and Evolution in the Age of Darwin” reveals the ways in which the major themes of evolution were taken up in the performing arts during Darwin’s adult life and in the generation after his death.


The period 1830-1900 was the formative period for evolutionary ideas. While scientists and theorists investigated the law and order of nature, show business was more concerned with what was out of the natural order. Missing links and throwbacks, freak taxonomies and exotic races were favourite subject matter for the burgeoning variety theatre movement. Focusing on popular theatre forms in London, New York and Paris, Jane Goodall shows how they were interwoven with the developing debate about human evolution.


With this book, Goodall contributes an important new angle to the debates surrounding the history of evolution. She reveals that, far from creating widespread culture shock, Darwinian theory tapped into some of the long-standing themes of popular performance and was a source for diverse and sometimes hilarious explorations.



Jane R. Goodall

Born in 1951 in Yorkshire, England, is a researcher at the Writing and Society Research Centre of Western Sydney University, Australia. She studied at London and Oxford Universities and is currently Emeritus Professor at University of Western Sydney.


Jane Goodall has written extensively on arts in the modern era, with a special interest in the relationship between the arts and sciences. She has taught undergraduate courses and supervised research projects in relevant areas of arts history, and has conducted local history research on the Parramatta Road. Her academic publications include “Artaud and the Gnostic Drama”, “Performance and Evolution in the Age of Darwin” (winner of the Australasian Drama Studies Association’s Robert Jordan Prize, and available on DCPAS), and, with Christa Knellwolf, the collection “Frankenstein’s Science” (Ashgate, 2008), which contextualises Mary Shelley’s work in contemporary scientific and literary debates.


She is the author of the popular and award-winning novels “The Walker” (2004), “The Visitor” (2005), and “The Calling” (2007). Jane’s book “Stage Presence” was published by Routledge in May 2008.

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