By Dana Seitler

ISBN-10: 081665123X

ISBN-13: 9780816651238

ISBN-10: 0816666423

ISBN-13: 9780816666423

The post-Darwinian conception of atavism forecasted hindrances to human development within the reappearance of throwback actual or cultural features after a number of generations of absence. during this unique and stimulating paintings, Dana Seitler explores the ways that modernity itself is an atavism, shaping a ancient and theoretical account of its dramatic upward thrust and effect on Western tradition and mind's eye. studying past due 19th- and early twentieth-century technology, fiction, and images, Seitler discovers how sleek idea orientated itself round this paradigm of obsolescence and return—one that served to maintain ideologies of gender, sexuality, and race. She argues that atavism was once not just a discourse of violence—mapping racial and sexual divisions onto the boundary among human and animal—but used to be additionally an indication of ways smooth technological know-how understood individual as a temporal class. On one hand, atavism situated a few people as extra complicated than others on an evolutionary scale. at the different, it undermined such progressivism through suggesting that simply because all people had developed from animals they have been consequently now not only human. Atavism therefore finds how medical theories of a recurrent earlier have been an important characteristic of modernity. first and foremost of the 20th century, atavistic conception had frequent social and financial results at the taxonomies of drugs, the common sense of the welfare kingdom, conceptions of the fashionable family members, and pictures of the irregular. Investigating the cultural good judgment of technological know-how along side naturalist, feminist, and well known narratives, Seitler exposes the effect of atavism: a basic shift in methods of knowing—and telling tales about—the sleek human.

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He is described in the study as suffering from debilitating compulsions resulting from his sexual development having gone awry during childhood. 1 In Freud’s reading of the dream, the human psyche becomes indissociable from the sign of the animal. Such an indissociable relation emerges, I argue, as a primary ground for Freud’s account of the constitution of human being. The Wolf Man’s dream animals are interpreted by Freud as dispersed elements of a repressed and otherwise incoherent self in both an ontogenetic and a phylogenetic sense—that is, in terms of the growth of an individual and 31 32 Freud’s Menagerie the growth of the species.

But this book also makes a distinct argument. The literary and visual culture of the period did more than satisfy a proclivity for mimetic representation; it also contributed to the altering of people’s perceptual approach to the world. The larger stakes of this project, then, reside in examining the spread of a scientiWc project of the human and what it might tell us about the prehistory of our own contemporary sense of self. The six chapters that make up this book establish a link between epistemological questions about the status of humanness and the emergence of new narrative and visual forms in which concerns over corporeal ruination play themselves out thematically and formally.

46 As something already present “even in the noblest natures,” atavism threatens a resurgence of the prehuman past and, therefore, an implosion of the modern world. It also produces a fundamental, at times Introduction 25 eschatological, relation between time and the body, and thus between temporality and human progress. By focusing on these uneven concepts of human progress and regress, Atavistic Tendencies argues that the emergence of the idea of atavism marks a fundamental shift in ways of knowing and understanding the human.

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Atavistic Tendencies: The Culture of Science in American Modernity by Dana Seitler

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