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“Education of an Amphibian”: Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza


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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.
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“Education of an Amphibian”: Anachrony, Neoteny, and
Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
Daniel Aureliano Newman
Twentieth-Century Literature, Volume 62, Number 4, December 2016, pp.
403-428 (Article)
Published by Duke University Press
For additional information about this article
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Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
Twentieth-Century Literature 62, no. 4 December 2016 403
© 2017 Hofstra University DOI 10.1215/0041462X-3764034
“Education of an Amphibian”: Anachrony,
Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
Daniel Aureliano Newman
“I am looking for a device to present two epochs of a life
simultaneously,” writes Aldous Huxley in 1934 of his novel-in-progress
Eyeless in Gaza (1936), “for when one considers life one is equally struck
by both facts—that one has remained the same and become totally
dierent” (2007, 292). This perspective recalls Huxley’s 1926 letter about
his goal in Point Counter Point (1928), “to show a piece of life from many
dierent points of view... , in many dierent ways simultaneously” (2007,
185), but whereas the earlier novel confronts the panorama of modern
“life” (society), Eyeless in Gaza, as a bildungsroman, strives to unify the
diversity of a life. Seeing the self’s diversity as partly an artifact of linear
time, Huxley structures his bildungsroman by replacing Point Counter
Points multi-perspectivism with its temporal equivalent—anachrony.
Typically modernist for refusing “the explanatory power of linear narra-
tive” (Abbott 2010, 6), his anachrony is also unusual for being mimetic,
though not, as in Proust, mimetic of memory’s uidity; instead it mimics
a model of development Huxley adapted from contemporary biological
research, much of it by his brother Julian, on frogs and salamanders.
For both Huxleys, personal multiplicity was what Aldous called a kind
of “amphibiousness, a consequence of being “indigenous to half a dozen
incompatible worlds” (1956, 9–10). Both also saw in the amphibian’s
metamorphosis from aquatic larva to land- and water-dwelling adult what
R. S. Deese describes as “a living symbol of our potential to transform
ourselves, both as individuals and as a species” (2014, 183). As Aldous
writes in “Education of an Amphibian,” however, whereas “the tadpole
knows precisely when to get rid of its tail and gills, and become a frog,
we usually fail to harmonize our “double lives” (1956, 9). The potential
for change is too often wasted on humans, who age without maturing,
Daniel Aureliano Newman
and Aldous’s ction teems with “asymmetrical tadpoles, grown-up
infants “full of batrachian grapplings in the dark” (1928, 72, 149). For the
Huxleys, the most tting amphibian mascot was therefore not the frog
but the axolotl. This Peter Pan of salamanders “fails to metamorphose, and
attains full size and sexual maturity while keeping its larval characters,
including gills for a fully aquatic lifestyle ( J. Huxley 1920). In Afr ica View,
Julian wonders at the “arrest of personality” that causes “half our young
men [to] arrive at manhood, as Mexican axolotls do at their maturity,
while still in the tadpole stage” ([1931] 1968, 20). And axolotls play a
similar role in Aldous’s satires: Antic Hays ridicule of the Bright Young
People ends in a lab stocked with “black axolotls” (1923, 326), while
Point Counter Points infantile Lord Edward studies “the sexual activities
of axolotls” (1928, 161).
More enigmatic is the axolotl’s appearance in Eyeless in Gaza, where
it symbolizes not immaturity but the unrealized potential to achieve
complete maturity. In the novel’s nal pages, protagonist Anthony Beavis
muses, “Sheep’s thyroid transforms the axolotl from a gilled larva into an
air-breathing salamander” (1936, 612),1 a clear allusion to Julian’s 1920
experiment showing that axolotls fed sheep’s thyroid become normal,
terrestrial adult salamanders. Although axolotls have lost the ability
to produce their own thyroid, the hormone involved in amphibian
metamorphosis, they remain receptive to its eects: all it takes is a thyroid
supplement “to ‘pull the trigger’ of metamorphosis” (de Beer 1951b, 167).
This discovery illuminates Anthony’s cryptic musings; dening induced
metamorphosis as Eyeless in Gazas privileged mode of development, the
passage is a crucial instance of the amphibian trope the novel otherwise
deploys formally, through anachrony. If thyroid supplements induce meta-
morphosis (developmental completion) in a stunted salamander, Huxley’s
experimental shuing of chronology serves to induce the “transformation
of [Anthony’s] raw material into the nished product” (EG 361).
Eyeless in Gaza is one of the most visible instances of the modernist
“aspiration toward Bildung in new and startling formats” (Castle 2006, 29).
Although modernist deformations of the Bildung plot have often been
read as symptoms of modernity’s dislocations—most notably in Jed Esty’s
study of novels of “stunted/endless youth” set in colonial peripheries
(2012, 104)—critics are increasingly interpreting such disruptions as
strategies for making “room for alternative formulations of development”
(Bolaki 2011, 19). Modernist deformations can thus serve less to reject the
bildungsroman tradition than to renegotiate its ideals. In Gregory Castle’s
inuential formulation, modernist bildungsromane subvert the genre’s
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
conventions in order to recover Bildung as the “aesthetico-spiritual” ideal
devised by the Weimar classicists (2006, 63). When traditional Bildung is
recognized as an impossible ideal, Castle argues, foregrounding the failure
to achieve it “opens up avenues of experience that would otherwise
have been missed. This is the principal task of the modernist novel that
seeks to free the idea of Bildung from a temporality of self-abnegative
closure” (2015, 487). Tobias Boes thus advocates replacing the view of
Bildung as the “fulllment in a normative ideal” with a more exible view
of Bildung as a performative response to a crisis in historical understand-
ing” (2012, 7). To put it otherwise, a bildungsroman is a kind of literary
thought experiment for testing theories of development, a genre therefore
adaptable to any number of developmental visions.
In the case of Eyeless in Gaza, the experiment involves a typically
modernist subversion of “both the ideology of linear progress and the
allegorical bonding of a nation to a life” (Murphy 2013, 78). Exploiting
the correlation between the Bildung plot and models of biological
development, Huxley manages to sever the former’s problematic reliance
on linearity by remodeling its narrative based on new, nonlinear theories
of embryological and evolutionary change. As it rejects the “ideology
of linear progress,” that is, his novel’s anachrony also serves the more
constructive role of performing a version of the temporally dysregulated
development by which the axolotl remains juvenile in form even as an
adult, making the animal available for induced metamorphosis. These
aspects of axolotl biology provide a model for Anthony’s own Bildung plot,
but they also nd signicant structural analogs in William James’s psychol-
ogy and philosophy of religious experience, as well as in contemporary
hypotheses about the possibility of rapid and radical evolutionary change.
Incorporating theories from biology, psychology, and spiritualism into its
form, Eyeless in Gaza thus participates in a cultural project Huxley shared
with several contemporary writers, activists, and scientists, including his
brother, who argued that rather than disproving “mystical experience,
science oers a basis for understanding it by “laying a foundation for the
proper spiritual training and development of human mind” ( J. Huxley
1923, 301–2).
Yoking the modernist interest in sudden, metamorphic change
(Stephen Dedalus’s epiphanies, Orlando’s sex change, Gregor Samsa’s
transformation) with contemporary paradigm shifts in biology, Huxley
imagines a form of Bildung capable of meeting or preventing the ever-
greater threats of “fascism, “communism,” and “nationalism” (EG 523).
Daniel Aureliano Newman
Where David Daiches feels in Eyeless in Gazas anachrony a naive imita-
tion of modernist forms (1939, 209), my biological reading thus interprets
it instead as an unfamiliar manifestation of the familiar modernist aim
to nd or create coherence in the chaotic modern world by combining
heterogeneous and disparate aspects of reality. More schematic than James
Joyce, T. S. Eliot, or Virginia Woolf in the pursuit of the world’s complex
fullness, Huxley is nevertheless engaged in a kindred project, responding
to modernity’s impulse toward specialization by dissolving boundaries and
leveling hierarchies between the various realms of human experience.
Chronology is native to the bildungsroman, and Eyeless in Gaza is so
clearly a bildungsroman that early reviewers could see its device only
as a gimmick (Watt 1975, 245–82). To Daiches, for example, it was
“wholly unnecessary, having no functional purpose” beyond obscuring
“the straightforward history of the development of the hero” (1939,
209–10). Even in otherwise innovative modernist texts (Sons and Lovers,
Jacob’s Room, Bryher’s Development) the bildungsroman “is imprinted
with development, evolution, progress, and advancement, and the notion
of linear temporality thus permeates the genre” (Kavaloski 2014, 162).
Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du temps perdu, a clear inuence on Eyeless,
has a nonchronological Bildung plot, but where its anachronies are
naturalized as the actions of memory, Huxley’s jarring shifts, labeled with
a date stamp, resist naturalization. These shifts appear to be random, and
the consciousness responsible for marking the dates remains mysterious,
suggesting the work of a Joycean Arranger, an agency that transcends that
of both hero and narrator.
Huxley’s use of anachrony might well appear random, especially
in comparison with the temporal structure of Great Expectations,
a novel covering similar story duration distributed over a similar
number of chapters (see figure 1, which plots order of chapters
against order of events). In Dickens’s novel events are presented
chronologically, in the order of their occurrence, producing the
perfect correlation shown as a line of black circles in Figure 1.
The same relation in Eyeless in Gaza, mapped as white diamonds,
seems chaotic: from any given chapter in the novel it would seem
impossible to guess the time period of the events of the next chapter.
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
gure 1
Another look, however, reveals a distinct pattern (gure 2), four separate
developmental lines, each corresponding to a discrete period of Anthony’s
life: childhood, 1902–1904; youth, 1912–1914; adulthood, 1926–1928; and
middle age, 1931–1935. Following the narrative along the graph’s x-axis,
we nd four parallel and chronological developmental plots, though each
plot is repeatedly interrupted by the insertion of episodes from the other
gure 2
three plots. The result is perhaps as close as a linear narrative can come
to showing “two epochs of a life simultaneously so as to show their
relations with one another” (A. Huxley [1932] 2007, 292). Masking
rather than denying the role of temporal sequence in development,
anachrony here foregrounds counterpoint as an alternative ordering
principle. Bridges connect various aspects of Anthony, whose various
Daniel Aureliano Newman
selves at dierent ages coexist. Instead of temporal and causal determinism,
this arrangement suggests growth through leitmotifs, thematic anities
and contrasts, ironic juxtapositions, and verbal echoes. At the end of
chapter 30 ( July 7, 1914), for instance, Anthony’s father jokingly refers
to his pencil as “my teeny weeny weeny, embarrassing young Anthony
because “it was the rst time .. . his father had ever, in his presence,
made any allusion to the physiology of sex,” and chapter 31 (Sept. 6,
1933) opens with sex’s counterpoint: “Death” (EG 408, 409). Nineteen
years separate these contiguous moments, whose relation is non-causal
in the story but productive in the discourse of a kind of textual causation
that links Anthony’s middle-age morbidity to his youthful specializa-
tion in sexual indulgence. The arrangement is hardly “random” (25).
In dismissing it as a gimmick, early reviewers ( perhaps understandably)
failed to see how Eyeless in Gazas anachrony enables events from late in
Anthony’s story to nd gainful employment, as it were, early in the discourse
of his life. These critics seem to echo an early version of Anthony, who
tells himself he is “simply a succession of states” in an eort to absolve
himself of ethical responsibility: “Good and evil can be predicated only
of states, not of individuals, who in fact don’t exist, except as the places
where the states occur” (EG 144–45). After his moral cowardice pre-
cipitates his friend Brian’s suicide in 1914, Anthony conveniently denes
individuals as “formless collections” (147) of states, each isolated from
the others, a denition that gets “rid of responsibility and the need for
consistency” (365) and allows him, paradoxically, to remain “unchangeably
himself” (24). “What right had the man of 1914 to commit the man of
1926?” he asks, trying to exorcise his guilt for Brian’s death (151). The
text, as well as Anthony himself later, plainly refutes such rationalizations.
In his earlier, self-serving view, a betrayal that leads to Brian’s suicide is
no worse than a betrayal that follows the suicide (as it is presented in the
text). This view might seem to explain the novel’s anachrony, especially
in Anthony’s envisioning memory as “a lunatic [who] shued a pack of
snapshots and dealt them out at random.... There was no chronology.
The idiot remembered no distinction between before and after.... At
the time of the event certain participles happened to be in a favourable
position. Click! The event found itself caught, indelibly recorded. For no
reason whatever” (23–24). Tempting as they are to read as a key to the
novel’s form, these reections are misleading. Indeed, the narration is so
tightly focalized through a character we know to be wrong that it could
be called unreliable, the unreliability located in the timing (in the story) :
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
these reections are those of a character who later will invalidate the
nihilism of his younger self. And even he suspects a hidden logic beneath
the randomness, rst claiming that memories arise “for no reason” but
then wondering if perhaps “the reason were not before the event, but after
it, in what had been the future” (24)—the Bergsonian notion that events
retrospectively create their own possibility.
In Point Counter Point the novelist Philip Quarles imagines a novel
about an asymmetrically developed character who, like himself and like
Anthony, “has always taken pains to encourage his own intellectualist ten-
dencies at the expense of all the others. He avoids personal relationships
as much as he can, he observes without participating” (A. Huxley 1928,
405). When Quarles describes his character’s relation to time and habit, he
sounds even more like Anthony: “He has always been careful not to distin-
guish one day... ; not to review the past and anticipate the future...,
not to revisit scenes from his childhood.... He seems to himself to be
achieving freedom.... But in reality, as he gradually discovers, he has
only narrowed and desiccated his life, so he “desires... to change. But
it’s dicult to break life-long habits” (405–6). Fittingly, then, Anthony’s
conversion is framed as breaking out of the habit of being “unchangeably
himself” (EG 24). It is signicant in this regard that Anthony’s self-
isolating “habit of avoiding personal relations” manifests itself in the act
of counting (15). As James denes it in The Principles of Psychology (1890),
habit is a similarly mindless succession: “A series of movements repeated
in a certain order,” writes James, “tend to unroll themselves with peculiar
ease in that order for ever afterward. Number one awakens number two,
and that awakens number three, and so on” ([1890] 2007, 504). When
Anthony caresses his lover Helen, he maintains a self-protective aloofness
by counting “one, two, three, four—each movement of his hand.... The
gesture was magical, would transport him, if repeated suciently often,
beyond the past and the future, beyond right and wrong, into the discrete,
the self-sucient, the atomic present... . Thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-
four, thirty-ve” (EG 25). The sequence recapitulates Anthony’s whole
life at this moment, “the thirty-ve years of his conscious life” (23), before
being interrupted by the beginning of a new chapter, set twenty-ve years
earlier, when Anthony counts billboards—“thirty-one.. . thirty-two”
(26)—in order to distract himself from the pain of his mother’s death.
This new sequence is obviously related to the sequence in the previous
chapter, but the relation is neither one of anticipation (it is shown after)
nor one of continuation (the count jumps back from 35 to 31). If the
Daniel Aureliano Newman
classical bildungsroman’s linear correlation of story order and discourse
order is dangerously aligned to the “peculiar ease” of habitual repetition,
in Huxley’s re-vision of Bildung contrapuntal temporality breaks the linear
“To create a personality,” Huxley writes in a 1927 essay, “one must
devise an ideal framework in which the naturally discontinuous materials
can be harmoniously tted. Temporal gaps separate the elements of a
personality from one another; the framework should span these gulfs of
time” (1927, 235). To “compose” his hero’s personality, then, Huxley’s
challenge is to nd a way by which “time-divided elements” and “dis-
continuous states may reveal themselves as a part of a whole, developing
in time. The most perfect personality is that in which the natural discords
are harmonized by some principle of unity, in which the discontinuous
psychological elements are tted into a framework of purposive ideals
strong enough to bridge the gaps between them” (235, 243–44). That
such a “principle of unity” runs counter to “the principle of continuity”
(250) suggests that although the whole “develop[s] in time” it cannot be
adequately represented as a function of time.2 Against continuity, Huxley
thus foresees the role he would later assign to anachrony: to “co-ordinate”
a “personality” one “must devise a technique for association-making”
(249–50). In Eyeless, he achieves this by anachronistically shuing dis-
course order, leveling the walls between distinct phases of Anthony’s life.
While his conversion occurs late in both story and discourse (February
7, 1934: chapter 52), for instance, he rst appears as a convert early in the
discourse (April 4 and 5, 1934: chapter 2). This mature Anthony contrasts
with both the cynic of 1933 (chapters 1 and 3) and the sensitive boy of
1902 (chapter 4). Yet together the contrasting stages “reveal themselves as
part of a whole.
As the narrative skips from one period of his life another, Anthony is
never limited for very long to one age or one set of qualities, foreground-
ing his desire “to develop all [his] potentialities” (EG 121). This desire,
which reects Huxley’s ideal of “general, all-round progress,” accords
perfectly with Weimar conceptions of Bildung (A. Huxley 1937, 263).
“The true end of man,Wilhelm von Humboldt asserts in The Limits of
State Action, “is the highest and most harmonious development [Bildung]
of his powers to a complete and consistent whole, an end incompatible
with narrow specialization ([1850] 1969, 16). Specialization, however, is
the fate reserved for “us moderns, as Friedrich Schiller writes in The
Aesthetic Education of Man: a mere “fragment,” modern “man... never
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
develops the harmony of his being, and instead of putting the stamp
of humanity upon his own nature, he becomes nothing more than the
imprint of his occupation or of his specialized knowledge” ([1794] 1967,
33). In 1931 Huxley would nd these conditions unchanged, observing
that “if society continues to develop on its present lines, specialization
is bound to increase,” and individuals will be reduced to “cogs in an
industrial machine,” bereft of “a full, harmonious life” (1931, 146–47). A
mainstay of his oeuvre from “The Farcical History of Richard Greenow”
(1920) to Island (1962), “specialization” or “being lop-sided” (1928,
357) aicts most of Huxley’s characters, very few of whom can hope
to nd the “harmony and completeness” he equates with “civilization”
(123). They lack “a principle of integration... that will co-ordinate the
scattered fragments, the island universes of specialized or merely profes-
sional knowledge,... that will help, perhaps, to transform them from
mere spectators of the human scene into intelligent participants” (1937,
198–99). It is in this “integration” that Eyeless in Gaza locates for a person
“progress, not only as a citizen, a machine-minder and machine-user, but
also as a human being” (EG 329).
For Huxley, such progress is always linked to “the life of the body,
and in his pronouncements on education and self-realization he eagerly
looks to biology to support his arguments against specialization (1928,
123). In Ends and Means (1937), a nonction counterpart to Eyeless in
Gaza, he argues that among all species “man alone has kept himself free
from specialization” and has therefore “been able to go on progressing
in the direction of greater awareness, greater intelligence” (1937, 264).
This is the same trajectory he values for individual humans in the social
sphere: “The qualities which have led to biological progress are the
qualities which make it possible for individual beings to escape from their
separateness—intelligence and the tendency to co-operate” (301). The
parallel is hardly surprising: in the simplest sense, biology underlies the
Bildung plot simply because social, artistic, or spiritual formation unfolds
in what Bakhtin calls “‘biological time’—the hero’s age, his progress from
youth to maturity to old age” ([1986] 2010, 11). But if it underlies the
bildungsroman, modern biology also shares intellectual roots with the
concept of Bildung, which was conceived as the expression of a universal
vital force driving psychic, cultural, and national as well as physiological
and anatomical development (Boes 2012, 50). In Friedrich Schelling’s
inuential view, biological processes “were isomorphic with those acts
delineated subjectively in the self” (Richards 2002, 116). Studying
Daniel Aureliano Newman
“the nexus of biology and society that Bildungsromane have always been
concerned with,Anne-Julia Zwierlein argues that the genre “shares with
Victorian scientic texts a deep interest in the mechanisms which make
maturing individuals develop their own capacities while at the same time
integrating into society” (2012, 336). The intellectual roots that Bildung
shares with developmental biology are clear in the linear and organic
progress memorably described by G. W. F. Hegel:
The bud disappears in the bursting-forth of the blossom, and
one might say that the former is refuted by the latter; similarly,
when the fruit appears, the blossom is shown up in its turn as
a false manifestation of the plant, and the fruit now emerges as
the truth of it instead. These forms are not just distinguished
from one another; they also supplant one another as mutually
incompatible. Yet at the same time their uid nature makes them
moments of an organic unity. ([1807] 1979, 2)
This conception of Bildung as successive sublations of body into mind into
spirit would echo throughout the century—in Jane Eyre’s growth through
trial and experience, in Sigmund Freud’s concept of working through, or
in Alfred Tennyson’s resolve, in In Memoriam, to “move upward, working
out the beast, / and let the ape and tiger die” ([1851] 1958, 249). Such
progress was widely seen as the result of a natural law dictating the
temporal changes undergone by embryos, species, personalities, languages,
and civilizations alike.
In biology this law was codied as recapitulation theory, the hugely
inuential notion that individual development (ontogeny) replays species
evolution (phylogeny). For Goethe and his peers, argues John Kadvany,
recapitulation “was paralleled by new forms of universal history and the
emergence of the Bildungsroman as the law’s literary analogue” (1989, 34;
see also Abbott 2010, 4). While the bildungsroman charts “man growing
in national-historical time” (Bakhtin [1986] 2010, 25), recapitulation
embeds ontogeny within the framework of progressive phylogeny:
both view individuals as microcosms of the general. An “inescapable
consequence” of Naturphilosophie, recapitulation takes the same “form
of a single, ascending chain” as Bildung (Gould 1977, 35–36). According
to recapitulation theory, individual development replays the order of the
stages of its species’ evolutionary history; in the bildungsroman, likewise,
the narrating traditionally repeats the order of the events being narrated.
The scientic model and the novelistic form share a narrative structure,
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
notably the constitutive relationship with chronology. More than a merely
parsimonious temporal structure for developmental narratives, chronology
is in both literary and scientic narratives functional: time is the medium
in which the individual, as a specic instance of an archetypal pattern,
gradually and successively realizes itself. Indeed, the logic of organic
development is that “changes occur in order, in sequence, or in succession,
following each other in time in a causal and logical relationship. Time is
unidirectional” (Meacham 1997, 43).
By the 1920s, however, while modernists were experimenting with
new forms of Bildung, most biologists had become dissatised with reca-
pitulation, whose enchanting simplicity, universality, and linearity failed
to t the new facts of experimental embryology and Mendelian genetics.
Increasingly, recapitulation was linked not to progressive evolution but to
“specialization and degeneration” (de Beer 1951a, 55)—the antithesis of
the Bildung ideal. Deviations from coordinated linear growth, once inter-
pretable only as freaks, were found to be the norm. Where recapitulation
presents the developing organism as a whole, new embryological research
revealed a mosaic of organs and tissues developing at various times and
rates, as I will explain in the next section. The discovery challenged reca-
pitulation’s simplicity and provided an explanation for sudden and radical
novelty in both biological development and evolution. Though Eyeless
in Gazas anachrony may seem to announce a refutation of “biological
time” as a sucient developmental principle, biology’s contemporary
abandonment of recapitulation suggests another possibility. Huxley’s novel
does not reject biology at all: it replaces one kind of biological time with
another, one more reective of contemporary science—and modernist
aesthetics. To apply such a nonlinear model to a bildungsroman is to
reimagine Bildung as both product and process.
Nevertheless, Eyeless in Gazas developmental vision depends largely
on the end, when the merger of discourse order and story order suggests
some loyalty to the classical telos of mature fulllment. At the end,
Anthony experiences “serene lucidity.. .. What was in store for him.
Whatever it might be, he knew now that all would be well” (EG 620).
While the text seems to ironize such optimism, still Huxley evidently
agrees with Anthony’s mature belief that “complete knowledge (with
the whole mind) of the complete truth”—a synoptic survey of life—is
the “indispensable preliminary condition of any remedial action, any
serious attempt at the construction of a genuinely human being” (522).
If Anthony ever is “complete” it is in the nal restoration of chronology,
Daniel Aureliano Newman
a fact that undermines Krishnamoorthy Aithal’s claim that anachrony
alone “enacts his nal transcendence from the temporal prison of the
self” (1984, 49). Anachrony is the “preliminary condition” for the
“remedial action, not the remediation itself. And to see how anach-
rony performs this work, we must look into the biology of the axolotl.
Phyllis Bentley recognizes Eyeless in Gaza as a bildungsroman but suggests
its “jumbling method . . . does not permit the slow development of
personality” (quoted in Vitoux 1972, 212–13). As Pierre Vitoux argues,
however, it isn’t “the slow development of personality” that concerns
Huxley but, rather, “a crisis, psychological and moral, leading to a conver-
sion; his vision is not evolutionary but climactic or mutative” (1972, 213).
This is a crucial point, though Vitoux’s opposition between evolution and
mutation reects Victorian conceptions of development and evolution
rather than those familiar to Huxley in the 1930s. By then, Darwinism
had grown to accommodate some forms of sudden change, and Huxley
notes in Ends and Means that evolution proceeds both by gradual “natural
selection” and by abrupt “hybridization, retardation of growth and fœtal-
ization” (1937, 261). Especially relevant to his view of Bildung, the latter
two processes result in the retention of juvenile features in adulthood—a
phenomenon known as neoteny (or paedomorphosis), which, despite its
suggestion of regression, was believed to enable an evolutionary “escap[e]
from the blind alleys of specialization, into a new period of plasticity and
adaptive radiation” ( J. Huxley, quoted in Montagu 1981, 254).
Anthony is neotenous. Nicknamed “Benger... because [he] looked
so babyish, he also resembles “the infant Samuel” (EG 5, 362). For the
most part, though, the concept of neoteny is latent rather than plainly
evident in Eyeless in Gaza; as a positive force for humanity it receives
more explicit treatments in the novel's predecessor Brave New World
(1932) and successor After Many a Summer (1939). In Brave New World, the
Director of Hatcheries defends the production of “below par” individuals
because full development is wasted on menial workers; what is redundant
in low-caste “Epsilons” is “that fruit of delayed development, the human
intelligence” ([1932] 2007, 11). The Director acknowledges a problem,
however: “Though the Epsilon mind was mature at ten, the Epsilon
body was not t to work till eighteen.... If the physical development
could be speeded up till it was as quick, say, as a cow’s, what an enormous
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
saving to the community!” Getting more technical, the Director muses
about “the abnormal endocrine co-ordination which made men grow so
slowly.... Could the eects of this germinal mutation be undone? Could
the individual Epsilon embryo be made to revert... to the normality
of dogs and cows?” (12). The same abnormality of human development
process is described in After Many a Summer : “There’s a kind of glandular
equilibrium.... Then a mutation comes along and knocks it sideways.
You get a new equilibrium that happens to retard the development rate.
You grow up; but you do it so slowly that you’re dead before you’ve
stopped being like your great-great-grandfather’s foetus” (1939, 102). In
that novel, however, this deceleration isn’t deplored as an inecient waste
but rather praised as the source in humans of positive youthful qualities. A
human is a fetal ape in the same way that “a dog’s a wolf that hasn’t fully
developed. It’s more like the foetus of a wolf than an adult wolf.... It’s a
mild, tractable animal because it has never grown up into savagery.” Both
novels thus imply that our most human qualities stem from “abnormal”
deviations from ancestral “normality.” Dystopia in Brave New World
results from straightening the nonlinear dynamics of Bildung, reversing the
“humanizing principle of pedomorphism” (Drennan quoted in Montagu
1955, 22).
The developmental retardation that causes neoteny is heterochrony—
the “alteration and reversal of the sequence of [developmental] stages” in
a descendant compared with the developmental sequence of its ancestors
(de Beer 1930, 9). By the 1930s embryologists saw the organism not as a
whole but rather, as Julian Huxley and Gavin de Beer put it in Elements
of Experimental Embryology, as a “mosaic” of organs developing indepen-
dently and at variable rates ([1934] 1963, 225). While “an old prejudice in
biology” had once favored the “perfect coordination” of the organism’s
parts as evidence of evolutionary superiority, the new view privileged the
“dissociability” of its parts in the organismal mosaic (Gould 1977, 234).
Because each part develops more or less individually, a small change in
growth rate or speed in one part can have rapid and large-scale eects:
“Since a single genetic change aecting a growth-gradient will automati-
cally express itself in a changed relation in the size of a large number of
organs” ( J. Huxley 1932, 3), a single mutation aecting the growth rate of
one organ can have dramatic consequences for adult morphology. Neoteny
occurs when bodily maturation decelerates relative to sexual maturation,
resulting in a reproductive adult with a juvenile morphology. An axolotl
never grows out of what is, in its salamander relatives, the larval stage.
Daniel Aureliano Newman
Heterochrony helped dethrone recapitulation as biology’s grand
narrative, undermining the scientic justication of old hierarchies and
prejudices. And Louis Bolk’s theory “that man, in his bodily development,
is a primate fetus that has become sexually mature” was an especially
potent challenge to human vanity (quoted in Gould 1977, 361). Aldous
knew of Bolk’s theory long before he described a human as “a foetal
ape” in After Many a Summer (1939, 311). In Jesting Pilate (1926) he
muses that “we are like angels when we are children.... In youth and
earliest maturity we are human; the angel dies when we are men.. . .
As middle-age advances, we become less and less human, increasingly
simian” (1926, 98). Citing the developmental homology between fetal ape
and adult human, Huxley also highlights one of its bizarre implications:
aging without true development is regression, not maturation. This is
the case with most of Huxley’s “parodies of grown men” (EG 558). Yet
in Jesting Pilate Huxley also anticipates Anthony’s conversion. Though
most people “gr[o]w back in the process of growing up” (1939, 103)
and “remain ape-like to the end,” a few may “become for a second time
something more than human” (1926, 98). Neoteny thus allows maturation
rather than mere aging and, as “one of the mechanisms of evolutionary
development” (1939, 102), provides a way to put “evolution.. . into
reverse, as A. C. Hardy puts it, “so that the race retreats backwards away
from specialization” (1958, 123).
Anthony’s neoteny is not valuable in itself, but by prolonging imma-
turity it defers the reversion “into savagery” that comes with mere aging
(A. Huxley 1939, 102). A protracted youth extends “the plastic years of
childhood” (1927, 232) or, as James called the period of greatest receptiv-
ity to conversion, “the moulting-time of adolescence” ([1902] 1985, 199).
Neoteny thus conserves Anthony’s “actualizable potentialities” until he is
ready, in middle age, to “modify himself” (EG 513, 522). If behavior is
largely reex conditioned by habit, Anthony comes to believe, “if reexes
can be conditioned, then, obviously, they can be re-conditioned” (85). In
accepting the possibility of late-life reconditioning, he comes to agree
with Julian Huxley and de Beer’s caution against seeing adult form as a
nished product: “Development is not merely an aair of early stages; it
continues... throughout life. The processes of amphibian metamorphosis
or of human puberty; the form-changes accompanying growth; senescence
and natural death itself—these are all aspects of development; and so, of
course, is regeneration ([1934] 1963, ix, emphasis added). Because so much
education occurs after childhood, anachrony permits the child to learn,
as it were, from the adult version of itself.
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
Anachrony performs this work by mimicking a phenomenon de Beer
termed “clandestine evolution,” which depends on neoteny (1930, 30).
The mechanics of clandestine evolution are complicated, but they bear
structural anities to attempts to explain religious experience empirically.
Examining these attempts (which are, moreover, central to Huxley’s
project) can thus help introduce their biological counterpart. Exploring
the modernist recoil from gradualism in life narratives, H. Porter Abbott
notes that, after Darwin, religious conversion stood as the “last remaining
outpost of the catastrophist paradigm of change at the ontogenetic level.
And as the stubborn remnant of supernatural causation it demanded
urgent scientic attention, which it got in the form of a sustained eort
to ‘naturalize’ this unnatural event” (2010, 5). Deeply committed to this
eort, Huxley revered James for striving “to keep religion in connection
with the rest of science” ( James [1902] 1985, 513) by developing psycho-
logical explanations for the mysterious phenomena of genius and mystical
insight. In Huxley’s cherished Varieties of Religious Experience, James
elegantly addresses the unity-diversity paradox, psychologizing religious
experience without thereby invalidating “the theologian’s contention
that the religious man is moved by an external power.” This depends on
conceiving the psyche as divided into distinct but interacting parts: “It
is one of the peculiarities of invasions from the subconscious region to
take on objective appearances, and to suggest to the Subject an external
control. In the religious life the control is felt as ‘higher’; but since on our
hypothesis it is primarily the higher faculties of our own hidden mind
which are controlling, the sense of union with the power beyond us is a
sense of something, not merely apparently, but literally true” (512–13).
In this naturalistic mysticism is a hint at how anachrony can partici-
pate in the linear process of Bildung. In the divided psyche, the conscious
and unconscious interact dynamically; consciousness is continually
ooded, with unpredictable results, by unconscious thoughts. As James
rst described it in “Great Men and their Environment,” this dynamic
is not supernatural but “Darwinian” ([1897] 1960, 247). A genius’s mind
innovates by shaping materials “originally produced in the shape of
random images, fancies, accidental out-births of spontaneous variation
in the functional activity of the excessively instable human brain. In
this way, if habit takes the form of stepwise progression (as in Anthony’s
defensive counting), the transformative thought of “genius” is random and
anachronistic: “Instead of thoughts of concrete things patiently following
one another in a beaten track of habitual suggestion, we have the most
Daniel Aureliano Newman
abrupt cross-cuts and transitions from one idea to another, the most
rareed abstractions and discriminations, the most unheard-of combina-
tions of elements, the subtlest association of analogy” (248). In light of
Huxley’s search for “harmony between conscious self, personal not-self,
and vegetative soul” (A. Huxley 1956, 18), James’s unication of the
mystical and the psychological thus nds its necessary bodily complement
in the new biology. “Many of the performances of genius... have their
origin” in James’s random associations ([1902] 1985, 512), just as radically
new animal morphologies emerge from the heterochronic rearrangement
of the mosaic organism.
While James’s “cross-cuts” mirror the dissociations of heterochrony,
their results (creative genius, divine inspiration) mirror de Beer’s theory of
clandestine evolution. In neoteny, the individual becomes reproductively
mature before its body has passed through all the stages of its ancestors’
life-history: an axolotl never reaches the terrestrial stages of salamander
adulthood (barring induced metamorphosis, of course). Thus “a species
undergoing paedomorphosis will nd itself in possession of a number
of genes whose functions were to control characters which no longer
appear, since the old adult characters will be lost in neoteny. ... It is,
therefore, possible to imagine that these ‘unemployed’ genes are available
for new variation” (de Beer 1951a, 93). Hypothetically speaking, the genes
formerly responsible for the adult salamander’s lungs would thus be avail-
able to perform radically new functions in the axolotl, which, fully aquatic,
does not need lungs. Several biologists believed that such repurposing of
formerly adult features could trigger an “unexpected abrupt modication,”
sending a species’ evolution “in a new direction altogether” (de Beer 1930,
31). Neoteny contributes to the amazing adaptability of humans, combin-
ing adult qualities derived from long-term experience with conserved
juvenile qualities.3 By contrast, argues de Beer, linear recapitulation leads
to “small groups of animals, which become more and more specialized and
incapable of evolving further” (91). There is an obvious parallel between
this critique of recapitulation and the modernist critique of Bildung plots
that lead inexorably to “nished adults” (Esty 2012, 53). Sounding not
unlike Yeats or Eliot, de Beer endows neoteny with the promise of renewal,
in individuals, in species, and even in the universe. As “the cause of the
retention of plasticity” (viz. “the potentiality of evolving further”), neoteny
can reverse evolutionary entropy: “We do not know how energy is built
up again in the physical universe although it must happen somehow; but
the analogous process in the domain of organic evolution would seem to
be paedomorphosis” (de Beer 1930, 91, 95).
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
De Beer’s dubious certainty that evolutionary rejuvenation “must”
have a cosmological homolog signals a faith in correspondences much in
evidence in Huxley’s view of Bildung as the bridging of separate faculties.
It is in search of such correspondences that Huxley randomizes the
chapters of Eyeless. In other words, the novel’s anachrony is the formal
manifestation of a thematic pressure: the need for Anthony to change
himself. More than a good metaphor, that is, metamorphosis is for
Huxley the basis of a new narrative—a new narratology even—of human
development. Formal devices always mean more than our interpretations
of them might suggest; nevertheless, Eyeless in Gazas anachrony does
clearly mimic both induced metamorphosis and clandestine evolution.
Just as heterochrony shues the developmental schedules of various
organs, resulting in new associations among them and, thus, in new
morphologies, anachrony puts eects before their causes (and so, in the
discourse, allows eects to cause their causes). If the “proper correla-
tion” (EG 328) of Anthony’s faculties requires rearranging the habitual
linear plot, no wonder his conversion persuades him to rethink the
“shape” of his own book, The Elements of Sociology: “It would be silly
not to put my materials into shape. Into a new shape, of course” (15).
As the title of Anthony’s book suggests, Huxley’s novel is ultimately
concerned not only with the individual’s conversion but also with how
an individual might spur social change. The same goal animates Julian
Huxley’s concern with the evolutionary repercussions of developmental
change and James’s belief that great individuals reshape their world
through acts of genius. Though Jerome Meckier calls Eyeless in Gaza a
satire of the bildungsroman (1969, 144), its use of biology thus suggests
an earnest attempt to reimagine the genre’s central concern with social
integration. In the end, chronology restored, Anthony advances “step
by step towards the experience of being no longer wholly separate, but
unied at the depths with other lives, with the rest of being” (EG 618).
But this social unication diers markedly from the submission demanded
of the protagonist in the classical bildungsroman, whose youthful hero
may be eccentric but can mature only by acquiescing to the social order
(Moretti 2000, 15). Indeed, Anthony inverts this trajectory: rather than
conform to society, he pledges to forge it into his image. As for Joyce’s
Stephen at the end of Portrait, then, maturity for Anthony means being
ready to change the world around him.
Daniel Aureliano Newman
Individuals are “capable not only of achieving personal enlighten-
ment, Huxley writes in Ends and Means, “but also of helping whole
societies to deal with their major problems” (1937, 323). For Anthony
this means growing up in order to help other “individual men, women,
and children” become “full-grown human beings” (EG 452–53). To do
this, Anthony turns to F. H. Alexander’s technique for reconditioning
reexes and habits, the constraining and mindless sets of actions that
limit development not only in the individual but also in society. As James
famously proclaims, habit, society’s “most precious conservative agent,
prevents “dierent social strata from mixing” because it “dooms us all
to ght out the battle of life upon the lines of our nurture or our early
choices... because there is no other for which we are tted, and it is
too late to begin again” ([1890] 2007, 121). Tempering James’s pessimism,
Eyeless in Gaza explores the possibility that it is not too late either for
Bildung or for true progress in society.
With this sense of possibility, Anthony nally comes to meditate on
“identical patterns, and identical patternings of patterns... , the thought
of life incessantly moving among the patterns, selecting and rejecting
for its own purposes. Life building up simpler into more complex
patterns—identically complex through vast ranges of animate being” (EG
612). The concern of this abstract passage is development, the emergence
of complexity from simplicity, as well as the unity or universality of the
patterns that underlie all mutability. From these abstractions Anthony’s
thoughts about patterns then turn toward the biological: “The sperm
enters the egg, the cell divides and divides, to become at last this man,
that rat or horse. A cow’s pituitary will make frogs breed out of season.
Urine of a pregnant woman bring[s] the mouse on heat. Sheep’s thyroid
transforms the axolotl from a gilled larva into an air-breathing salamander,
the cretinous dwarf [sic] into a well-grown and intelligent human being."
Highlighting the transformative power of hormones, Anthony here gives
voice to the analogy embodied in the novel’s form—between the human
potential for harmonious self-realization and the axolotl’s potential for
induced metamorphosis. In a sense, then, Eyeless in Gaza is a study in
“the correlation found between regeneration rate and susceptibility to
hormones” ( J. Huxley and de Beer [1934] 1963, 370). This correlation
between individual “axolotl” and individual “cretin” also entails another,
related analogy, between individual regeneration and group progress. The
action of hormones in the development of an axolotl (or mouse, or frog)
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
also implies their action across individuals—what Aubrey Schneider calls,
citing Julian’s axolotl research, “the universal action of thyroid” (1939, 431).
Hormones are physiologically ecacious in their native bodies, but they
act also when transposed into other bodies, even across species—hence
Anthony’s realization that “between one form of animal life and another,
patterns are interchangeable” (EG 612–13). Finally there is more to
Anthony’s self-realization than “choos[ing] one set of patterned atoms to
represent his personality rather than another” (147–48); he must also merge
the personal pattern with larger, “super-personal” ones (Huxley 1937, 325).
If Anthony ever achieves maturity it is when he recognizes super-
personality as a solution to the paradox of “unity even in diversity” (EG
612), helping explain Anthony’s absence from certain chapters, as well as
the otherwise inexplicable date stamps. Like Woolf’s The Waves, Eyeless
embeds its characters within a larger textual consciousness, in which they
experience “union with what is above personality” (Huxley 1937, 73),
and it is only after his conversion that Anthony realizes the selfs unity lies
“outside the boundaries” of personality (EG 143). “Most human beings,
Huxley writes in Ends and Means, fail to fulll their developmental poten-
tial because they “do not know how to travel upwards from personality
into a region of super-personality” (1937, 71–72). Huxley’s notion of a
“super-personality” also claries Eyeless in Gazas ambivalent relation to
Proust, who, Huxley thought, insightfully modeled the human mind but
failed to apply those insights to social improvement (1927, 247). While
within chapters Huxley does exploit Proustian memory, the temporal
shifts between chapters transcend the boundaries of the self.
Anthony’s progress enables him to elevate others, most notably
Helen, the rst person he allows himself to love (EG 154). With her
own network of chapters, motifs, and associations, Helen receives so
much narrative attention that Eyeless can scarcely be read in terms of
Anthony’s Bildung alone. One of her narrative functions is to contrast
with Anthony (he becomes a pacist, she a bloodthirsty communist),
but she also participates in his growth. At the very beginning it is Helen
who triggers the cascade of Anthony’s Proustian memories which, like
a fugue’s exposition, introduce key motifs that will resonate throughout
the novel; the narrativization of Anthony’s Bildung is thus performed as
a social rather than merely individual process. His life-changing trip to
Mexico is spurred by a chance meeting with Helen; his conversion is
pregured in his spontaneous empathy for her; and his nal choice to face
Daniel Aureliano Newman
physical danger and deliver a pacist lecture is prompted by a debate with
her. And this inuence is reciprocal: the formative events in Helen’s life
involve Anthony. In the end, her belief in political violence wavers and she
seems ready for Anthony’s pacism (608). Though the novel ends before
she can choose either option, her new receptivity to his ideals signals a
major change of heart. The novel’s structure reects Anthony’s growth in
mutual interaction with Helen’s.
Grasping that “between one form of animal life and another, patterns
are interchangeable” (612–13), Anthony has grasped more than a basic
fact of endocrinology. The seemingly miraculous eect of thyroid, he
learns, is a molecular counterpart to the emotions humans share: “The
mental pattern of love can be transferred from one mind to another and
still retain its virtue, just as the physical pattern of a hormone can be
transferred, with all its eectiveness, from one body to another” (613).
Huxley here bridges the apparent dierences between physiological
process and emotional attachment, biological transmission with cultural
communication, biosphere with noosphere. Not mere analogies, these are
homologies. The hormone and “the mental pattern of love” seem distinct,
one perceptible to our senses, the other only to intuition and emotions,
yet they are actually aspects of one reality. Anthony’s conversion occurs
when he accepts that his personality is neither atomically dissociated in
time nor separate from other personalities but, rather, embedded with
them in the super-personal, just “as a hand is committed to the arm”
(611). This points to how his personal development implies social and
evolutionary progress: “Love and understanding, argues Huxley in Ends
and Means, “are valuable even on the biological level. Hatred, unawareness,
stupidity, and all that makes for increase in separateness are the qualities
that, as a matter of historical fact, have led either to the extinction of a
species, or to its becoming a living fossil, incapable of making further
biological progress” (1937, 301–2).
Odd as it seems, Huxley’s views locate him as part of a small but
inuential chorus of public intellectuals, including John Dewey, J. B. S.
Haldane, Konrad Lorenz, and Timothy Leary, who found hope in the
biology of neoteny. For Gerald Heard in 1941, human survival rests on
a “sporadic outcrop” of those “who manage to retain, with full mental
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
stature, the radical originality and freshness of a vigorous child,” a view
that rests in equal parts on James’s model of individual genius and on de
Beer’s clandestine evolution: “Radical, creative hypotheses do not result
from specialized accumulation of data” but “spring from minds which...
combine absorption with detachment, interest with wonder. It is this
combination which produces the mental explosion, the intellectual
ignition, after which the idea is found precipitated” (Heard 1941, 160). In
Growing Young, Ashley Montagu declares that neoteny’s “ramications for
the future of each of us and of humanity in general are so staggering that
an understanding of it should be a part of everyone’s equipment” and that
education should “cultivate the child’s neotenous traits” (1981, 1, 223).
In the same intellectual tradition is the reconciliation of evolutionary
and developmental biology, sparked in large part by Stephen Jay Gould’s
Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), which documents the often ugly legacy of
recapitulation theory and the alternatives oered by heterochrony.
Nor was Huxley alone in his literary engagement with these ideas.
The fantastical metamorphosis in Woolf s Orlando may be related to the
contemporary discovery that sex change in gypsy moths results from het-
erochrony (de Beer 1930, 21–23), which may also inform the narrator’s
claim that “there are (at a venture) seventy-six dierent times all ticking in
the mind at once” (Woolf [1928] 1993, 308). Margaret Drabble’s The Sea
Lady relates the possibility of later-life Bildung to the “little thyroid gland
that makes us wise or stupid” and the “evolutionary miracle” of neoteny
([2006] 2008, 57). Most intriguing is W. H. Auden’s “Verse Commentary”
to his sonnet sequence “In Time of War” (1938). Auden credits humans
for having developed our potentialities to the extent that our “boneless
worm-like ancestors would be amazed / At the upright position, the
breasts, the four-chambered heart, / The clandestine evolution in the
mother’s shadow” (1977, 263). Despite the persistent myth of the Two
Cultures, such literary engagements with neoteny and progress suggest
that science remains for modernism (and beyond) a potent source of
imaginative possibility, of new narrative forms, and of new ways of making
sense of our experience.
Time has not looked kindly on Eyeless in Gaza, whose political
naiveté seems downright silly in the wake of World War II. But if this
bildungsroman fails to provide what Iris Murdoch calls “a satisfac-
tory Liberal theory of personality, a theory of man as free and separate
and related to a rich and complicated world” (1961, 18), its formal
Daniel Aureliano Newman
incorporation of biology still constitutes an important and undervalued
part of the story of modernism’s eorts to safeguard Bildung from mo-
dernity. Julian Huxley writes in a 1923 essay that human development,
“that moulding of matter by spirit[,] is, under one aspect, Science; under
another, Art; under still another, Religion. Let us be careful not to allow
the moulding forces to counteract each other when they might be made
to co-operate” (1923, 302). Forty years later, this warning echoes in
Aldous’s Literature and Science (1963), in a passage that retrospectively sheds
light on his experiment in Eyeless in Gaza: “Words are few and can only
be arranged in certain conventionally xed ways.... That the puried
language of science, or even the richer puried language of literature
should ever be adequate to the givenness of the world and of our experi-
ence is in the very nature of things, impossible. Cheerfully accepting the
fact, let us advance together, men of letters and men of science, further
and further into the ever-expanding regions of the unknown” (A. Huxley
1963, 99). Only “together” can science and literature transcend the “xed,
sequential nature of language and, by extension, plot. In its attempt to
model this combined eort Eyeless in Gaza represents an important
instance of modernist art aligning itself, in its reaction against modernity,
with what I would call modernist science. Its dizzying adaptation of the
new biology makes it one of the century’s fascinating attempts to make
Bildung possible in the modern world.
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 ction.
Some of his research is published or forthcoming in Style, James Joyce Quarterly,
Oikos, and American Journal of Botany.
I thank Cannon Schmitt, Melba Cuddy-Keane, Gregory Castle, and two
anonymous reviewers for invaluable criticism and suggestions on drafts of this
essay, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for
nancial support.
Anachrony, Neoteny, and Bildung in Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza
1. Eyeless in Gaza will be cited as EG.
2. The inuence of André Gide’s Les Faux-monnayeurs is clear in Huxley’s
essay, as it is throughout Point Counter Point and in the temporal structure of
Eyeless in Gaza. Gide’s narrator “can admire, in some rare cases, what is called
‘the spirit of continuity’; but usually this aspect of being is obtained only by
a vain stubbornness and at the expense of the natural. The more generous the
individual and the more abundant his potentialities, the more disposed he is
to change, the less willing to allow his future to be determined by his past”
([1925] 1975, 324, my translation).
3. For this reason neoteny plays a crucial role in the pedagogy of John Dewey,
who writes in Democracy and Education that “with respect to the development
of powers devoted to coping with specic scientic and economic problems
we may say the child should be growing in [into adulthood]. With respect to
sympathetic curiosity, unbiased responsiveness, and openness of mind, we may
say that the adult should be growing in childlikeness” (1916, 50).
4. In more or less literal senses, human neoteny continues to elicit active
interest among biologists, psychologists, historians, and pedagogues.
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Eyeless in Gaza (1936) is usually considered Huxley’s most complex work; it makes a break with his social novels of the twenties and establishes him as a proponent of mysticism. However, scholarly analyses of this novel are mostly limited to its non‐linear structure and mystical passages. This paper analyzes epiphanies as important structural and thematic elements of Eyeless in Gaza. Our focus is not only on Anthony Beavis as a protagonist, but also on minor characters such as Helen Ledwidge and Brian Foxe. This paper shows that epiphanies in Eyeless in Gaza anticipate the major ideas of The Perennial Philosophy and The Doors of Perception. We also indicate that Huxley’s use of epiphanies defines his views on Romantic pantheism and positions his literature in the Modernist context.
Cambridge Core - Literary Theory - Animal Subjects - by Caroline Hovanec
The Bildungsroman, or "novel of formation," has long led a paradoxical life within literary studies, having been construed both as a peculiarly German genre, a marker of that country's cultural difference from Western Europe, and as a universal expression of modernity. In Formative Fictions, Tobias Boes argues that the dual status of the Bildungsroman renders this novelistic form an elegant way to negotiate the diverging critical discourses surrounding national and world literature. Since the late eighteenth century, authors have employed the story of a protagonist's journey into maturity as a powerful tool with which to facilitate the creation of national communities among their readers. Such attempts always stumble over what Boes calls "cosmopolitan remainders," identity claims that resist nationalism's aim for closure in the normative regime of the nation-state. These cosmopolitan remainders are responsible for the curiously hesitant endings of so many novels of formation.
Bildung always comes late. This might well be the motto for any fiction that narrates self-cultivation, whether it takes the form of a classical Bildungsroman or any number of variants that seek to avoid its dialectical closure. The idea that Bildung comes late (sometimes too late, sometimes never) is implicit in the temporality of nineteenth-century Bildungsromane, which is characterized by an aspiration for an ideal that is yet to come.1 That same ideal, however, serves as a model that preexists the experience of aspiration, for while our experience toward the ideal makes achievement belated, we are at the same time engaged in another temporality, one that glances back to the model that’s been left behind. Our futurity is defined by a curious “afterwardsness” that leaves us traumatized for having aspirations at all.2 Modernism, by unveiling these temporalities of Bildung, opens new narrative horizons, in which the aspiration toward Bildung (even its failure) becomes an achievement in its own right.