By Dana Seitler
The post-Darwinian conception of atavism forecasted hindrances to human growth within the reappearance of throwback actual or cultural characteristics after numerous generations of absence. during this unique and stimulating paintings, Dana Seitler explores the ways that modernity itself is an atavism, shaping a old and theoretical account of its dramatic upward thrust and influence on Western tradition and mind's eye. reading past due 19th- and early twentieth-century technology, 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 used to be additionally a demonstration of ways sleek technology understood individual as a temporal type. On one hand, atavism situated a few people as extra complicated than others on an evolutionary scale. at the different, it undermined such progressivism via suggesting that simply because all people had advanced from animals they have been hence now not only human. Atavism therefore finds how medical theories of a recurrent prior have been an important characteristic of modernity. in the beginning of the 20 th century, atavistic idea had frequent social and financial results at the taxonomies of medication, the good judgment of the welfare country, conceptions of the trendy relations, and pictures of the irregular. Investigating the cultural good judgment of technology together with naturalist, feminist, and renowned narratives, Seitler exposes the impact of atavism: a basic 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
8 I use the term supplement deliberately here, following Derrida’s notions of supplementarity: in my usage, the animal acts as a supplement that produces no relief, but rather conWrms the excess, and therefore lack, of meaning it is deployed to both display and conceal. As a supplement, the animal marks a deWciency of and an addition to the human self. ” 9 Posing such an inquiry has, at its base, a political desire to shift away from empirical or foundationalist questions about whether or how we are human and toward epistemological questions about how we come to know what we know about the species of being called human.
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.
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.
Atavistic Tendencies: The Culture of Science in American Modernity by Dana Seitler