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Creatures of Cain$
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Erika Lorraine Milam

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691181882

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691181882.001.0001

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The Edge of Respectability

The Edge of Respectability

(p.153) 9 The Edge of Respectability
Creatures of Cain

Erika Lorraine Milam

Princeton University Press

This chapter concerns the insights of Elaine Morgan, particularly in her 1972 book, The Descent of Woman. In this book, she argues that all theories of human evolution to date were based on a male-centered notion of human evolution. The Descent of Woman was one of the earliest public rejoinders to masculinist narratives of human ancestry. An Oxford-educated Welsh writer for BBC Radio, Morgan chose as her target several of the most prominent books on human evolution circulating through the United Kingdom. By the early 1970s, in other words, evolutionary approaches to human nature were sufficiently current for other writers (and publishers) to deem them worthy of ridicule. Yet humor was a double-edged sword. Sarcasm might garner readers but for authors with no formal training in anthropology or zoology, like Morgan, maintaining a respectable public persona as a popularizer of science proved difficult.

Keywords:   Elaine Morgan, The Descent of Woman, sarcasm, humor, masculinist narratives, human ancestry, human evolution

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