A Concise Companion to Modernism (Concise Companions to by David Bradshaw

By David Bradshaw

This concise spouse bargains an leading edge method of realizing the Modernist literary brain in Britain, targeting the highbrow and cultural contexts, which formed it. deals an cutting edge method of realizing the Modernist literary brain in Britain. is helping readers to know the highbrow and cultural contexts of literary Modernism. Organised round modern rules corresponding to Freudianism and eugenics instead of literary genres. Relates literary Modernism to the overarching problems with the interval, similar to feminism, imperialism and warfare.

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Evadne, the heroine of Sarah Grand’s sensational bestseller of 1893, The Heavenly Twins, bans the romantic novel from her reading, feasting instead on medical textbooks, which would impart the facts of life frankly and honestly. Among the books Evadne reads are the works of Galton, and Spencer (1893: 176). The Heavenly Twins sold 20,000 copies in Britain within a few weeks, and more than five times as many copies in the USA (Kersley 1983: 72–3). Even Tess was being used for sex education; Hardy reported that numerous mothers “tell me they are putting Tess into their daughters’ hands to safeguard their future” (Hardy 1978–88, I: 255).

Unlike many of his eugenic-minded contemporaries, Hardy would question the morality of the Spencerian dictum “survival of the fittest” (Arabella survives, in Jude the Obscure, but in what way is she fit? And, to complicate matters, her child is a morbid degenerate, suicidal and murderous, a product, par excellence, of Max Nordau’s worst fears). In 1876 he copied into his notebooks a passage from Theodore Watts-Dunton: “science tells us that, in the struggle for life, the surviving organism is not necessarily that which is absolutely best in an ideal sense, though it must be that which is most in harmony with the surrounding conditions” (1985, I: 40).

The ultimate aim of both was the attainment of a future society in which the egos of individuals would merge in the interests of the whole; an idea which would become a central tenet of eugenics. Thomas Huxley, by contrast, saw human nature, given the slowness of evolutionary change, as more or less fixed; for him, improvements were to be sought in the environment. He questioned the “unfortunate ambiguity of the phrase ‘survival of the fittest,’” remarking: “I sometimes won13 Angelique Richardson der whether people, who talk so freely about extirpating the unfit, ever dispassionately consider their own history” (1894: 80).

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