By Dana Seitler
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 influence on Western tradition and mind's eye. reading overdue 19th- and early twentieth-century technology, fiction, and images, Seitler discovers how glossy 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 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 an indication of the way glossy technology understood man or woman as a temporal class. On one hand, atavism located a few people as extra complex 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 no longer in simple terms human. Atavism hence finds how medical theories of a recurrent earlier have been an important function of modernity. before everything of the 20th century, atavistic thought had frequent social and fiscal results at the taxonomies of medication, the good judgment of the welfare country, conceptions of the fashionable kin, and photographs of the irregular. Investigating the cultural good judgment of technology together with naturalist, feminist, and well known narratives, Seitler exposes the impact of atavism: a primary shift in methods of knowing—and telling tales about—the sleek human.
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Extra resources for Atavistic Tendencies: The Culture of Science in American Modernity
The horror that stirs deep in man is an obscure awareness that in him something lives so akin to the animal that it might be recognized. [ . . ] He may not deny his bestial relationship with animals, the invocation of which revolts him: he must make himself its master. —Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street In this chapter, I explore some of Freud’s most famous case histories as foundational texts in the thinkability of the human. In particular, I take “The Wolf Man” (1918) as a locus classicus. Sergei Pankejeff, the patient who came to be known as the Wolf Man, was the son of a rich Russian landowner.
Conyers’s abusive husband, whom she has left, comes to town and kidnaps their son, but not before whipping her in the face with his horse’s reins. John Tom Little Bear, who has been on a drinking binge to drown his sorrows, immediately sets off on foot to Wnd the boy. Along the way, he degenerates into a “disrespectable Indian”: a “Cherokee Brave” traveling on a “warpath” (51). When he returns with the boy in his arms and Mr. Conyers’s scalp dangling from his belt, Jeff Peters hardly recognizes his friend, for “the light in his eye [was] the kind the aborigines wear” and “the Xowers of the white man’s syntax had left his tongue” (51).
But the fact that O. Henry intended this story as a playful farce may provide us with another way to read it. To be sure, we are encouraged to Wnd humor in the act of reversion itself. ” This diagnosis is “funny” because it Introduction 23 demonstrates John Tom’s ability to recognize his own atavism, and to do so within the terms of contemporary science, something he should not be able to do if he were in fact what his actions have shown him to be. The joke, then, can be said to have two parts.