Modernism and Eugenics: Woolf, Eliot, Yeats, and the Culture of Degeneration

Overview

In Modernism and Eugenics, Donald J. Childs shows how Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, and W. B. Yeats believed in eugenics, the science of race improvement, and adapted this scientific discourse to the language and purposes of the modern imagination. Childs traces the impact of the eugenics movement on such modernist works as Mrs. Dalloway, A Room of One's Own, The Waste Land, and Yeats's late poetry and early plays. The language of eugenics moves, he claims, between public discourse and personal perspectives. It ...
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Overview

In Modernism and Eugenics, Donald J. Childs shows how Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, and W. B. Yeats believed in eugenics, the science of race improvement, and adapted this scientific discourse to the language and purposes of the modern imagination. Childs traces the impact of the eugenics movement on such modernist works as Mrs. Dalloway, A Room of One's Own, The Waste Land, and Yeats's late poetry and early plays. The language of eugenics moves, he claims, between public discourse and personal perspectives. It informs Woolf's theorization of woman's imagination; in Eliot's poetry, it pictures as a nightmare the myriad contemporary eugenical threats to humankind's biological and cultural future. And for Yeats, it becomes integral to his engagement with the occult and his commitment to Irish nationalism. This is an original study of a controversial theme which reveals the centrality of eugenics in the life and work of several major modernist writers.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Articles on individual modernist writers outline connections between their works and eugenical thought, but Childs' study is the first full-length treatment of this issue in relation to literary modernism, and as such is a valuable contribution to the field.... a very worthwhile contribution to modernist study." Woolf Studies Annual

"Child's book is at its best." Modern Fiction Studies

"investigates the influence of eugenics upon the lives and works of three modernist writers... Childs makes a knowledgeable case..." English Literature In Transition 1880-1920

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521033305
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Childs is Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Ottawa.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Virginia Woolf's hereditary taint 22
2 Boers, whores, and Mongols in Mrs. Dalloway 38
3 Body and biology in A Room of One's Own 58
4 Eliot on biology and birthrates 75
5 To breed or not to breed: the Eliots' question 99
6 Fatal fertility in The Waste Land 121
7 The late eugenics of W. B. Yeats 149
8 Yeats and stirpiculture 170
9 Yeats and The Sexual Question 203
Notes 231
Index 260
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