By Dana Seitler
The post-Darwinian concept 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 push and impression on Western tradition and mind's eye. analyzing overdue 19th- and early twentieth-century technological know-how, fiction, and images, Seitler discovers how glossy suggestion orientated itself round this paradigm of obsolescence and return—one that served to maintain ideologies of gender, sexuality, and race. She argues that atavism used to be not just a discourse of violence—mapping racial and sexual divisions onto the boundary among human and animal—but was once additionally a demonstration of ways sleek technology understood man or woman as a temporal type. On one hand, atavism situated a few people as extra complex than others on an evolutionary scale. at the different, it undermined such progressivism by means of suggesting that simply because all people had advanced from animals they have been hence now not in basic terms human. Atavism therefore finds how clinical theories of a recurrent earlier have been an important characteristic of modernity. firstly of the 20 th century, atavistic idea had common social and financial results at the taxonomies of medication, the good judgment of the welfare country, conceptions of the fashionable relations, and photographs of the irregular. Investigating the cultural good judgment of technological know-how along side naturalist, feminist, and well known narratives, Seitler exposes the impression of atavism: a primary shift in methods of knowing—and telling tales about—the glossy human.
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Additional info for Atavistic Tendencies: The Culture of Science in American Modernity
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. I chart the ways in which atavism is dramatized in visual, scientiWc, and literary productions and trace the interaction among those productions, which from the Wn de siècle on became increasingly signiWcant as a means to tell the story of the human. Visual, scientiWc, and literary practices of representation not only reconWgured the idea of the human but also established modern practices of interpreting and experiencing it.
16 Later the Wolf Man added that the wolves “sat quite still and without making any movement. ” Eventually Freud asked his patient to draw a picture of the dream, detailing the tree with the wolves perched in the branches (173–74). ” From Sigmund Freud, The Wolfman and Other Cases, translated by Louise Adey Huish. Copyright 2002 by Louise Adey Huish. , London. Reprinted by permission of Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 38 Freud’s Menagerie Freud reconstructs the contents of what he comes to call the Wolf Man’s “primal scene”: the young boy’s possibly real but potentially fantasized witnessing of parental sex.
48 In my reading of these texts, I focus on a scene of embrace that occurs in each: in The Hairy Ape we witness Yank hugging a gorilla at the zoo; in “The Gorilla,” a life-and-death embrace between a capitalist factory owner and his bestialized worker; in The Sea-Wolf, a similar embrace between the effete landlubber Humphrey van Weyden and his kidnappercum-ship’s captain Wolf Larsen as they discuss the difference between spirit and matter. Each scene, I argue, stages the surprising intimacies an encounter with atavism affords—intimacies both between men and across species.