RaceSci
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The Dark Side of Darwin: Entropy, Atavism, and the Degenerate in Late Victorian
Culture.
Professor John Greeway, University of Kentucky, Spring 2001.

I call the course "The Dark Side of Darwin" in that we will look at the scientific and
artistic expression of three interrelated ideas in late Victorian culture, ideas that
ran counter to the assumption that Evolution woudl inexorably lead to a Western
civilization based upon reason, decorum, and scientific progress.  This "Dark Side"
involves a view of time, human nature, and human future that we do not usually associate
with the idea of Progress.

We begin by examining what Charles Darwin observed about evolution and natural
selection and its extension into "Social Darwinsim." "Darwinism" implied a view of time
and human nature; however, the physical concept of entropy suggested that creation
changed form order to disorder, undermining the view that human organizations
of ever-increasing complexity characterized time.

Investigations in biology and anthropology gave some evidence of evolutionary
throwbacks, that, when extended to the human realm, we might as a species be
reverting to primal states.  This idea, atavism, received sharp sociological focus in the
figure of the degenerate.  We'll close the semester with two looks into the 20th century:
the attempt to fight racial degeneracy in the Eugenics movement, and Hitler's campaign
against "Degenerate Art", particularly jazz.

I haven't phrased the organization in chronological terms; rather thematic. All these
themes, remember, run together, and I think you'll see how they play off each other as
the semester, well, evolves.  We have a lot of material to cover, so to avoid huge
amounts of outside reading, I'm going to ask you to tribalize, each group adopting and
reporting on one secondary writer- Herbert Spencer (Social Darwinism); Francis Galton
(Eugenics); T.H. Huxley (Atavism); Max Nordau (Degeneracy); Claude Bernard
(Vivisection).  I've set up a rough web page (http://www.uky.edu/~engjlg/atavism/main.htm)
so I'll ask you to contribute your background reading to that.


Course Outline:

1. Introduction: Darwin in context (Jan. 10- 24)

Secondary Material: T.H. Huxley, "Evolution and Ethics"
Tennyson, "In Memoriam: A.H.H."

2. Entropy (Jan. 26- Feb. 7):

Principal Texts: Wells, The Time Machine
Swinburns, "The Garden of Proserpine"
Seconary Material: Kelvin, "On the Age of the Sun's Heat"
Pal, "The Time Machine" (film)

3. Atavism (Feb. 9- March 7):

Principal Texts: Stevenson, Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde
Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes
Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau
Secondary Material: Lombroso, Criminal Man; The Female Offender
Bernard, Introduction to Experimental Medicine
Poe, "Murder in the Rue Morgue"
"King Kong" (film)
"Tarzan and his Mate" (film)
"The Incredible Hulk" (TV)
"The Islands of Lost Souls" (film)

4. Degeneracy (March 19- April 11):

Principal Text: Stoker, Dracula
Secondary Material: Nordau, Degeneracy
:Lankester, Degeneration:  A Chapter in Darwinism
Wells, The Time Machine

5. The Modern Legacy: Eugenics, Hitler, and "Degenerate Art" (April 13-27):

Galton, Hereditary Genius
The Eugenics Movement
Hitler's "Degenerate Art" exhibit
Jazz as "Degenerate Music"
"Don't Knock the Rock" (film)
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