Zulus and Biology

After going over Zulus in class today, it was fascinating to learn briefly about Percival Everett’s background. It was interesting that despite being a philosophy major in his undergraduate work, he was still well-read on other topics, such as but not limited to the sciences and biology. However this was not surprising to me, as philosophy literally translates to “love of wisdom”.

In Zulus, a brief reference is made to the sciences and biology through a few different terms: “Everything around her was skin, like bark on a tree and she was not adipose, but meristem tissue” (Zulus, p. 105). Though admittedly, I did not look up what this terminology meant initially during my own reading, meristem’s literal definition gave solid context for the story. Meristem is essentially described as being tissue with the ability to divide and clone similar cells (Merriam-Webster.com; previous hyperlink provided).  Had I looked this up while reading through the first time, I feel that the reading would have made more sense to me, since I was confused as to what exactly was happening to Alice Achitophel, in that much like meristem tissue, she was creating similar cells of herself and she is basically reborn as a thin Alice Achitophel.

Biology is mentioned and briefly discussed in Moran’s Interdisciplinarity:

“A fusion of biology and social thought in which whole populations and classes of people were seen as evolving through a process of natural selection, according to what the British scientist and philosopher Herbert Spencer referred to as ‘the survival of the fittest’ (Moran, p.162). I found this particularly interesting not only because it can be tied in with the fact that Alice Achitophel herself has quite visually “evolved” leading to the betterment of herself and her survival, but also because Herbert Spencer who is mentioned was both a philosopher and a scientist. And so here I drew somewhat of a similarity between Spencer and Everett, though Everett is of course much more of a writer. But again, philosophers like him and Spencer typically do not limit the breadth of their studies, on account of their natural “love of knowledge”.

In conclusion, it is important to research the terms used in any reading not typically understood to the layperson. Whether it be biological terms or artistic terminology such as “tenebristic”, a term I enjoy using. This is a word typically referring to the style of tenebrism art, typically consisting of dark backgrounds with characters dramatically posed.  I’ve used it to describe various situations and films like in my film studies class, and even papers I’ve written. I always like to think that using such limited words opens up the reader to doing research to fully understand what I’m talking about whilst expanding their own knowledge, much like Everett must have intended by using the term “meristem”.

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