My research draws connections between early evolutionary theory and the figure of the mythic animal-human hybrid in fin de siècle literature.
The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw a striking resurgence of literary and artistic interest in classical hybrids such as the sphinx, the faun, the centaur, and the siren. My thesis seeks to examine and articulate the connection between these mythic forms, and the burgeoning evolutionary thought of the time. It argues that the mythic hybrid, incorporating as it does both animal and human bodily elements, was a fertile locus for anxieties and fantasies surrounding what it meant to be human in a post-Darwinian world.
Central concepts explored include degeneration theory, deep time and palaeontology, gender and sexuality, and nineteenth century mythography. Works of interest include the fiction of H. G. Wells, Arthur Machen, and Algernon Blackwood, as well as scientific literature by writers including Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and Charles Lyell.