By Dana Seitler
The post-Darwinian thought of atavism forecasted hindrances to human development within the reappearance of throwback actual or cultural qualities 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 push and impression on Western tradition and mind's eye. interpreting 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 man or woman 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 through suggesting that simply because all people had developed from animals they have been for that reason no longer only human. Atavism therefore unearths how clinical theories of a recurrent earlier have been an important function of modernity. at the start of the 20th century, atavistic concept had frequent social and financial results at the taxonomies of drugs, the common sense of the welfare kingdom, conceptions of the trendy family members, and pictures of the irregular. Investigating the cultural good judgment of technology along side 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 resources for Atavistic Tendencies: The Culture of Science in American Modernity
In the contingent social and biological forces encrypted in the Wgure of the atavistic body, Wnally, we can see how atavism stands as an allegory where the perplexing fusions of past and present, modern and archaic meet. If the idea of the modern, on this reading, comes into being by way of the shaping of human bodies, then it again proves ungraspable, though not only because of the body’s recalcitrance but also because modern temporality, with which that body is coincident, is perpetually recursive and shifting, forever a space of deWnitional struggle and epistemological resistance.
It therefore becomes necessary to interrogate and specify these narratives and structures. To do so means recognizing Freud’s complicated system of techniques, conceptual Wgurations, and formal strategies as the hermeneutics by which he comes to establish a model of modern humanity. Because Freud’s case history of the Wolf Man places such extraordinary emphasis on visualization, I would like to suggest that the therapeutic process, in 40 Freud’s Menagerie general, operates within an ekphrastic tradition.
What he wants from his father are things he can no longer remember in unrepressed form because they are desires that arise from earlier stages in his psychosexual development. In this instance, psychoanalysis aids the Rat Man’s psyche by performing an interpretative recovery of the past. 36 For Freud, though, sexual instincts themselves may perform this recovery, or at least the desire for it. ”37 If we can understand instinct as a fundamental precept of self here, then we can also see that the self is constituted and pushed forward by its own compulsive urge to restore the past.