This is an innovative and wide-ranging study of the myth of 'The Last of the Race' as it develops in a selection of literary and non-literary texts from the late seventeenth to late nineteenth centuries.
The perennial fascination with the end of the world has given rise to many 'last men', from the ancient myths of Noah and Deucalion to contemporary stories of nuclear holocaust. Endangered peoples such as the Maasai or Bush People continue to attract intense interest. Fiona J. Stafford begins with Milton and ends with Darwin, exploring the myth-making of their texts in the light of contemporary literary, scientific, political, and religious views. Chapters on Milton, Burnet, Defoe, Macpherson, Cowper, Wordsworth, Byron, Mary Shelley, Fenimore Cooper, Bulwer-Lytton, and Darwin combine to form an important account of the traces of this most resonant of cultural preoccupations, providing a distinguished contribution to cultural history as well as to literary studies.
`accomplished study...Her book is stimulating and introductory...arresting and original... Complex intellectual history is lucidly explained'
Times Higher Education Supplement
`This is a very ambitious project, and Stafford draws on a vast range of primary and secondary texts, non-literary as well as literary ... her book offers us an original perspective on a wealth of writers from the late seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries, and is a substantial contribution to our understanding of the persistence and permutations of an important modern myth.'
Katherine A. Armstrong, Chester College, British Journal for Eighteenth-century Studies, Vol. 19, Pt 1, Spring 1996
`Though Shelley is the focus of only one chapter of this wide-ranging study, it is a measure of the book's usefulness that every other chapter can be read as contextualizing and illuminating Shelley and other Romantics, including Wordsworth and Byron ... a work of cultural history, a study of the changing representations of a highly overdetermined motif.'
Steven Jones, Loyola University, Chicago, The Wordsworth Circle, Autumn '96