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Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection$
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Evelleen Richards

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226436906

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437064.001.0001

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Writing the Descent: From Bird’s-Eye View to Masterful Breeder

Writing the Descent: From Bird’s-Eye View to Masterful Breeder

(p.417) Thirteen Writing the Descent: From Bird’s-Eye View to Masterful Breeder
Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection

Evelleen Richards

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 13 deals with Darwin’s final assembly of the components of sexual selection and human sexual and racial divergence into the Descent of Man. It is argued that the Descent was structured by Darwin’s differences with Alfred Russel Wallace, by his conflicts over the thesis of "primitive promiscuity" adopted by the “new” evolutionary anthropologists, and the enduring resonances of savage encounter. His views on women and differences with John Stuart Mill are assessed. The problems posed by his detailed reconstructions of plumage and attribution of high aesthetic appreciation to female birds, and the contradictions engendered by his key thesis of the primacy of beauty-based male choice as the determinant of human racial divergence are analysed.

Keywords:   Descent of Man, sexual selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, primitive promiscuity, savage encounter, views on women, John Stuart Mill, plumage reconstructions, contradictions, male choice

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