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

By Dana Seitler

The post-Darwinian idea of atavism forecasted stumbling blocks to human growth within the reappearance of throwback actual or cultural characteristics 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 old and theoretical account of its dramatic upward thrust and influence on Western tradition and mind's eye. studying past due 19th- and early twentieth-century technological know-how, fiction, and images, Seitler discovers how sleek notion 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 an indication of ways glossy technology understood person as a temporal type. 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 advanced from animals they have been for this reason no longer merely human. Atavism therefore unearths how medical theories of a recurrent previous have been an important characteristic of modernity. firstly of the 20 th century, atavistic idea had common social and financial results at the taxonomies of drugs, the common sense of the welfare country, conceptions of the trendy kin, and pictures of the irregular. Investigating the cultural good judgment of technological know-how along side naturalist, feminist, and renowned narratives, Seitler exposes the impact of atavism: a basic shift in methods of knowing—and telling tales about—the smooth human.

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It turns out that at least one of the ways we learn about the modern subject, and the modern subject learns about him- or herself, is by way of the visual; we are transformed by what we see and come to new understandings of ourselves because of it. In the therapy sessions, this epistemovisual function works in two ways. For one, the Wolf Man’s therapy serves to represent his innermost traumas in illustrative terms, giving them material, imagistic form. 19 The genre of the psychoanalytic case study establishes the individual as an object of knowledge by deploying tropological and formal strategies as modes of knowing.

The wolf is a mark of atavism, the sign of the return, even more, of the constitutive reappearance of a prehuman past. The recuperable presence of the not-human in the form of the wolves in this instance is, therefore, a repetition of the subject’s deep past, psychological and evolutionary both. Although Freud insisted on the exemplary status of the single case study, the human–animal associations in “The Wolf Man” are not isolated instances, nor is this particular patient alone in his animalized suffering, as we can see from other case studies such as “The Rat Man,” Little Hans and his horse phobia, or Frau Emmy Von N.

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).

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