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

By Dana Seitler

The post-Darwinian idea of atavism forecasted hindrances to human development 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 push and effect on Western tradition and mind's eye. analyzing overdue 19th- and early twentieth-century technological know-how, fiction, and images, Seitler discovers how smooth inspiration 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 was once additionally an indication of the way glossy technological know-how understood individual 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 for this reason now not merely human. Atavism therefore finds how medical theories of a recurrent previous have been an important function of modernity. before everything of the 20 th century, atavistic conception had frequent social and financial results at the taxonomies of medication, the common sense of the welfare country, conceptions of the trendy kinfolk, and pictures of the irregular. Investigating the cultural good judgment of technology along with naturalist, feminist, and well known 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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When bounded by clear visual and narrative terms, the dream content, produced as object, protects the Wolf Man’s personhood from the very things that comprise it. ”29 According to Deleuze and Guattari, the multiplicity of the wolves (there is not just one but Wve in the drawing, and six or seven in the dream) must be shut down; their existence testiWes too strongly on behalf of generation without Wliation, sex without procreation, reproduction by another means—the proliferation of hybrids. 30 Animal Projections If these are the many forms the dreamscape takes, what of their content?

I know it was winter when I had the dream, and night time. Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terriWed to see that some white wolves were sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window. There were six or seven of them. The wolves were quite white, and looked more like foxes or sheep-dogs. . 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).

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. The Wrst part declares hilarious John Tom’s atavism; the second part, his civilized and erudite self-recognition of this “physiological” condition.

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