Fleissner's essay explores a possible response to the recent return of what Cynthia Russett called “the intellectual imperium of the Darwinian era” through the writings of Henry Adams. Considering Adams's work—particularly The Education (1907), Mont St.-Micheland Chartres (1904), and his “Letter to American Teachers of History” (1910)—in relation to the philosophical writings of Hans Blumenberg and Hans Jonas on the status of nature in modernity, Fleissner argues that recent Darwinisms, including those adopted by “Darwinist literary criticism,” conceive of an “ordering power of disorder” that makes them more similar to the poststructuralism they imagine themselves most strenuously to oppose than they are to the thinkers discussed here. For Adams in particular, the advent of modernity entailed a revelation of chaos at the heart of things that could never be folded back into an orderly meaningfulness.
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Jennifer L. Fleissner; The Ordering Power of Disorder: Henry Adams and the Return of the Darwinian Era. American Literature 1 March 2012; 84 (1): 31–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-1540941
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