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The online laboratory for NAI Seniors's study of George Eliot's Middlemarch.

NAI Seniors Set Sail With Darwin and Literature

By 10:22 PM ,

NAI Seniors Set Sail With Darwin and Literature with Professor Devin Griffiths and English 452!Here are the highlights from our collaborative classroom sharing with Professor Griffiths’ Radical Victorians seminar! NAI Seniors took their study of George Eliot and science literally outside their classroom into the learning space of their higher-ed counterparts. Beginning with the inciting question, “Where does creativity come from?” Professor Griffiths guided all the NAI students and his own USC students (plus chaperones of parents, staff and community members) through an investigation about the overlap between the arts and the sciences —from the micro level of Darwin’s use of personification and analogy in his writings, to the macro level of the ingenuity of the American liberal education. Students looked at epigraphs, Darwin’s pigeons, a USC student-produced video on “Darwin: The Gentle Radical,” and astoundingly poetic passages from the Origin of the Species (including his famous closing sentence that they close-read that morning in Ms. Barrios’s class)

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Professor Griffiths engaged the seniors with fascinating connections between William Paley’s (an 18th century natural theologian) watchmaker analogy and Darwin’s own analogies between domestication and natural selection. A wonderful letter from Emma Darwin made clear the emotional and spiritual dilemma Darwin personally experienced in his own pursuit of knowledge. NAI seniors witnessed USC students in action as they dissected passages and even jumped in with their own responses. They even got a bit of a bio of Prof. Griffiths’ former work, in what else—biology!

An exciting day spurred on by George Eliot’s own remarkable work marrying the arts and the sciences! Check out our flickr album for film clips and our blog for student responses to the class.


Coming soon on MiddleLab:
An exciting new collaboration with Professor Jonathan Grossman’s UCLA English 185 Senior Capstone Seminar—crosstown rivals meet in the “middle”(march)! UCLA seniors give NAI seniors a sneak peak into their research projects on Middlemarch (15 pages) as the latter gear up for theirs (5 page essay submissions to the DP HS Essay Contest). A fieldtrip to UCLA to attend Professor Grossman’s Middlemarch Mini-Conference will be a highlight event of scholarly exchange!

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