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The modern origin story as a literary genre

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posted on 2022-03-28, 11:03 authored by Elise Bohan
In the twenty-first century, the theories of modern science are radically altering the ways we perceive life and the universe. They are doing so more swiftly than at any other point in human history. Consequently, modern creation accounts are deviating more profoundly from traditional ones. In the wake of new scientific theories that speak of where we came from and what we are, a new literary genre has emerged: the ‘modern origin story’. The genre in question is a complex modern literary hybrid. Modern origin stories are thoroughly interdisciplinary narratives that combine elements of mythology, philosophy,science and literature. They do so for the purpose of pondering the great physical and metaphysical questions that have plagued humankind in perpetuity: ‘Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?’ Examining a number of modern origin stories by Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, and Charles Darwin, I illustrate that these narratives are simultaneously academic and colloquial, abstract and personal, and scientific and literary. Moreover they are written for thecomplementary purposes of informing, persuading and entertaining. I trace the undeniable kinships these narratives share with traditional mythology and literature, whilst exemplifying how their authors have modernised and refashioned traditional tropes and ideals. By examining scientific texts as literary works, and by acknowledging the fundamental literary kinships that exist between traditional and modern accounts of creation, I maintain that literary critics will be well placed to understand a number of important evolutions in modern aesthetics, values and literary forms. Consequently, we may more readily acknowledge that literature is a perpetually evolving phenomenon, devoid of an immutable essence.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. Science, modernity and the rise of the modern origin story -- 2. 'As it was in the beginning?' -- 3. 'Magic, story, lesson' -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: pages 67-73 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Paul Sheehan


Copyright Elise Bohan 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




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