Evolution and Eugenics in American Literature and Culture, 1880-1940: Essays on Ideological Conflict and Complicity

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Charles Darwin's theory of descent shook the foundations of Western thought and bibllical authority and suggested that, like our animal progenitors, man is trapped by biological determinism and environment, which requires the fittest specimens to struggle and adapt without benefit of God in order to survive. The related principles of eugenics, which promoted progress through social engineering, also has profound implications and consequences. In this context, this volume focusses on how American literature- in representing, challenging, and critiquing culture- appropriated and aesthetically transformed these theories and, reciprocally, how literature was altered by these ideas. In exploring the extent and depth of these theories on genres and individual authors, the editors have included individual essays from different theoretical positions on canonical and non-canonical, black and white, female and male authors, (on race, class, and gender issues), and on literature with different geographical settings and publlication venues- essays that examine an American literary landscape inseparable from social attitudes and ideologies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780838755556
  • Publisher: Bucknell University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Claire M. Roche is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Rhode Island.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Ideological Background and Literary Implications 9
"It is the race instinct!": Evolution, Eugenics, and Racial Ambiguity in William Dean Howells's Fiction 59
His and Herland: Charlotte Perkins Gilman "Re-presents" Lester F. Ward 73
Jack London's Evolutionary Hierarchies: Dogs, Wolves, and Men 89
Evolving into Violence: Poor White Humor in T. S. Stribling's Teeftallow 102
The Origin of Story and the Survival of Character in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! 116
Eugenics and the Fiction of Pauline Hopkins 133
Bad Blood and Lost Borders: Eugenic Ambivalence in Mary Austin's Short Fiction 148
"Feeble-Minded" White Women and the Spectre of Proliferating Perversity in American Eugenics Narratives 164
"Tourists Accommodated" with Reservations: Dorothy Canfield's Writings, Vermont Tourism, and the Eugenics Movement in Vermont 187
Eugenics and the Experimental Breeding Ground of Susan Glaspell's The Verge 203
Helen in Philadelphia: H. D.'s Eugenic Paganism 220
Re-examining the Political Left: Erskine Caldwell and the Doctrine of Eugenics 240
Reproducing the Working Class: Tillie Olsen, Margaret Sanger, and American Eugenics 259
List of Contributors 276
Index 279
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