By S. Karschay
This intriguing new research seems at degeneration and deviance in nineteenth-century technological know-how and late-Victorian Gothic fiction. The questions it increases are as correct this day as they have been on the 19th century's fin de siecle: What constitutes the norm from which a deviation has happened? What precisely does it suggest to be 'normal' or 'abnormal'?
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Extra info for Degeneration, Normativity and the Gothic at the Fin de Siècle
122 Jerrold E. ’123 The unequivocal benefit of this understanding of the relationship between cultural context and Gothic literature is that it can account for the Gothic’s cyclical and cumulative re-emergence at various historical moments of heightened cultural stress such as the period of revolutionary turmoil between 1780 and 1820 (the first major wave of Gothic novels) and the final decades of the nineteenth century. ’126 By contrast, they argue, the Gothic has a generic duty to create affective states of fear, horror and disgust in its readership, which makes Gothic fiction ‘in principle the least reliable index of supposedly “widespread” anxieties’127 – in the same manner that one would not cite the popularity of Punch magazine and the operas of W.
However, it would be misleading to suggest that people like Cesare Lombroso, Henry Maudsley or Richard von Krafft-Ebing yanked evolutionary theory from the realm of natural history to deploy it for social ends in an unseemly manner. In The Descent, Darwin himself had briefly left the zoological and botanical confines of The Origin to address evolutionary theory’s immediate social and historical relevance. In The Origin, Darwin struggled to present the random mechanism of natural selection as a progressive force in species evolution.
89). In the wake of Huxley’s treatise, caricatures of Darwin-monkeyhybrids flourished, visually rephrasing a question that seemed to have moved many a Victorian, including the later Conservative Prime Minister 38 Degeneration, Normativity and the Gothic at the Fin de Siècle Benjamin Disraeli, who, in a speech at Oxford University, asked to the cheers of the attendant crowd: ‘Is man an ape or an angel? ’24 Yet with the publication of Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, it became ever-more difficult to answer as Disraeli had done in 1864.
Degeneration, Normativity and the Gothic at the Fin de Siècle by S. Karschay
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