The cerebral rainforest: How the aftermath of the discovery of the gorilla influenced literature and culture, and altered evolutionary understanding and racial theory in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
Abstract‘The Cerebral Rainforest’ is a study of the gorilla’s considerable influence in literature, culture and science in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. It charts the gorilla’s troubled history with mankind and the thinning barriers between the two species – the title refers to the existence of a primal self, buried within in the human brain, which, in some of the works analysed in this dissertation, come to light when faced with gorillas or gorilla-like creatures, ultimately leaving us as wild and exposed as they are. It seeks to establish and understand the image built up around the gorilla during this time, and why it was – and has to some extent remained – a figure all at once terrifying and magnificent, unsettling in its proximity to us. It will engage with evolutionary and racial theories influenced by these animals. The dissertation is therefore divided into three primary chapters, along with an introduction and conclusion, which each deal with a primary focal point – the first chapter; ‘Deep Jungle’, deals with the initial discovery of the gorilla, Nineteenth Century accounts of hunting, the troubled figure of Paul du Chaillu and all those he influenced. The issues explored in this chapter will lead on to the second; ‘A World of Possibility’, which will focus on Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century speculative science fiction and fantasy. The third chapter; ‘The Inner Ape’, will explore the disturbing rise of scientific racism brought about by the breaking down of barriers between animal and human. Ultimately, the dissertation will explore the effect the gorilla had on humanity as a whole – and the unfortunate repercussions this double-edged relationship had on the gorilla.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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