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 historic and theoretical account of its dramatic upward thrust and impression on Western tradition and mind's eye. studying past due 19th- and early twentieth-century technology, fiction, and images, Seitler discovers how smooth proposal 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 used to be additionally a demonstration of the way glossy technology understood individual as a temporal classification. On one hand, atavism situated a few people as extra complicated 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 only human. Atavism therefore finds how medical theories of a recurrent earlier have been an important function of modernity. in the beginning of the 20th century, atavistic conception had common social and fiscal results at the taxonomies of medication, the common sense of the welfare kingdom, conceptions of the trendy relatives, and photographs of the irregular. Investigating the cultural good judgment of technological know-how at the side of naturalist, feminist, and well known narratives, Seitler exposes the impression of atavism: a basic shift in methods of knowing—and telling tales about—the smooth human.
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Extra info for Atavistic Tendencies: The Culture of Science in American Modernity
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.
It was through the concept of atavism that the sciences sought to centralize in the seeming impalpability of being the foundational characteristics of the human. In this incarnation, atavism was the smoking gun of the refractory elements of our social and biological existence. As biologist and eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard argued in 1922: Each of us has within him an “Under Man,” that primitive animality which is the heritage of our human, and even prehuman, past. ” Now, when society’s dregs boil to the top .
The early sociological and psychoanalytic case study, formulated as an intense inquiry into an individual or a small participant pool, Wxated on an interrogation of the human as human, on the psychic or social traits out of which the human is constituted. Sociologist Robert E. 11 For psychoanalysis, and for Freud in particular, the case study offered a similar Wrsthand view of human experience, from the inside out. 13 Cognitive thinking, in this view, is that which links both the individual to the collective (in practices like voting) and ideas to the body (thus ameliorating the problem of the mind–body split).