This essay links anachrony in Aldous Huxley’s bildungsroman Eyeless in Gaza to the biological phenomenon of heterochrony (changes in the schedule and tempo of developmental processes, resulting in evolutionary novelty). Highlighting implicit correspondences between Bildung and bodily formation, I propose that Huxley’s novel adapts this nonlinear model in order to rethink human development in a modern world beset by overspecialized education and political tyranny. Of particular importance is one of the results of heterochrony: neoteny (the adult retention of juvenile characteristics), a phenomenon famously studied in axolotls by Huxley’s brother Julian and widely heralded in the 1920s and 1930s as the key to human evolutionary and social success. Huxley’s scientific engagements in Eyeless in Gaza may be particularly sophisticated, but, as I conclude, other modernists and more recent authors have also found promise for Bildung in new biological theories of development and evolution.
“Education of an Amphibian”: Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
Daniel Aureliano Newman is Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoctoral fellow at McGill University, where he works on biology and physics in modern and contemporary British and Irish fiction. Some of his research is published or forthcoming in Style, James Joyce Quarterly, Oikos, and American Journal of Botany.
Daniel Aureliano Newman; “Education of an Amphibian”: Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 December 2016; 62 (4): 403–428. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-3764034
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