Our Final Class!

It is with a tear in my eye (or maybe that is sweat) that I write the final post for LIT 292, Darwin and Dickens: Science and Literature in Victorian England.   Yesterday we gathered at sunny, warm Tipperary Hill for some lunch and the presentation of final projects by the students.


We all enjoyed a delicious lunch before the presentations.  We were very pleased to have some distinguised guests with us, including Dean Julie Peacock, Professor Bruce Oldfield and Vice President Ann Marie Murray. 


Our other distinguished guest was fellow biology professor, Dr. Bill Hollister, who brought a couple of very impressive cameras.  Some may say that they are even more impressive than Dr. Saraceno’s new cell phone.  All of the photos on this blog posting that look really nice were taken by Dr. Hollister.  I know he is secretly hoping to replace me as the official LIT 292 photographer.  Thanks for the “help” Dr. Hollister.  I can only hope that he is not super talented at writing interesting and descriptive captions. 


Dr. Firenze started us off by talking a bit about the goal for the final projects.  Students used specific biological themes ( such as altruism, jealousy, parent/offspring conflict, mate selection and adultery) to analyze literary characters from “Great Expectations” and other works. 


Not everyone found this to be exciting and interesting but most of the students managed to stay awake while Dr. Firenze was speaking.


Our first presentation came from Mary #2, Sarah and Carrie who discussed altruism and compared examples from “Great Expectations” with some characters from their favorite movies.  This lively presentation also included film clips, rap music (translated for Dr. Firenze by Dr. Musa) and fancy dresses.   Yes, there is a reason they were dressed this way.


After the first presentation, Dr. Saraceno found a spot where he felt much more comfortable and settled in for the rest of the afternoon.


Mike and Erica were up next and brought some neurobiology (yay!!) to a discussion of parent/offspring conflict.  They used some cutting edge neuroscience to analyze and interpret the relationships between Pip and Magwitch and Miss Havisham and Estella.  Although we all agreed that Charles Dickens was probably not thinking about mirror neurons when he wrote “Great Expectations”, behaviors that are driven by these types of brain cells have been observed (and written about) since humans have been interacting with each other.


Next, Jenn, Savanna and Olga led a lively discussion about male and female mate selection in “Great Expectations”.  If you ever wondered what fiddler crabs have to do with Pip, Drummle, Biddy and Estella, this was the presentation to see. Basically, if you don’t have a decent burrow, you are not going to attract the ladies.


 We all had a fun time talking about this subject and had a lot to say.  It seems like most of us are experts (or think we are) about what the opposite sex is looking for in a mate.  Some “experts” had quite a bit to say on this subject and generously shared their knowledge with the rest of us. 


Dr. Firenze provided a detailed description of the specific biological characteristics that make a potential mate attractive.


Dr. Saraceno contributed his own perspective on the issue of the ideal mate. However, we were not sure if we should listen to him as he is currently living in a borrowed burrow.


Mary, Pam and Jessica examined jealousy in “Great Expectations”, applying both literary and biological themes to several specific instances of jealousy from the novel.  They also led an interesting discussion about why jealousy is a good thing, at least biologically speaking.


We were all excited to finish out class with a DVD created by Sean and Corey.  They came prepared with a DVD player.  Unfortunately, after a lot of this…….


…they promised to mail us all copies of the DVD.  We look forward to seeing their dramatization of a meeting between Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.

It’s all over but the grading!  Our experience was one to remember and I think we would all agree that we will never look at things in quite the same way again. 

Thanks to the students for their hard work and interesting discussions.  I think Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin would have been impressed with your creativity and enjoyed your presentations.  I hope you will continue to include a little biology and a little literature in your future adventures.  



~ by Dr. Musa on July 10, 2007.

2 Responses to “Our Final Class!”

  1. Bravo, Dr. Musa, you are the blog master.

    A very special THANK YOU to all three of our brilliant Professors. You gave us so much to consider while expertly guiding us on the most intellectually stimulating adventure from beginning to end. I will remain forever grateful. We made memories.

    Can I go back to London now, please?

  2. What an adventure! This is truelly something I will never forget. It has opened my mind forever. Thank You.

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