Evolution and Eugenics in American Literature and Culture, 1880-1940

Dr. Lois A. Cuddy and Dr. Claire M. Roche (Eds.)

Essays on Ideological Conflict and Complicity

2003
285 pages
ISBN 0838755550

Charles Darwin's theory of descent shook the foundations of Western thought and biblical authority and suggested that like our animal progenitors, man is trapped by biological determinism and environment, which require the fittest specimens to struggle and adapt without benefit of God. The related principles of eugenics, which promoted progress through social engineering, also had profound social consequences. The present volume focuses on how American literature - in representing and critiquing culture - appropriated and aesthetically transformed these theories and, reciprocally, how literature was altered by these ideas. In exploring the depth of evolutionary and eugenic influences on the work of individual authors, the editors have included essays from different theoretical positions on canonical and noncanoncial, black and white, female and male, authors, on race, class, and gender issues, and on literature with different geographical settings and publication venues - essays that examine an American literary landscape inseparable from social attitudes and ideologies.

About the editors:

Lois A. Cuddy is Professor of English, Women's Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Rhode Island. She earned her Ph.D. at Brown University in American Literature with an emphasis on classical influences on nineteenth-and twentieth-century literature and wrote her M.A. thesis on James Joyce's Ulysses. She co-authored and edited Critical Essays on T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" with Professor David H. Hirsch of Brown University. Dr. Cuddy has published essays on T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edith Wharton, Samuel Beckett and Dante, Walt Whitman, John Hawkes, Thornton Wilder, Darrah Cloud, and essays on humanities and pedagogy. She has been a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a Lilly Teaching Fellow, and a recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award at her university.

Clair M. Roche is a Ph.D. candidate in English, Rhetoric, and Composition at the University of Rhode Island. She is currently at work on her dissertation, "Circulating English: An Archival Work History, 1949-2001," a recent history of English studies in American higher education. Ms. Roche has published in the Journal of Teaching Writing and The Writing Lab Newsletter, and has co-authored a chapter on Peter Elbow in Twentieth-Century Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources.

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