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Modernism and Eugenics


  • Page extent: 276 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.413 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521033305)

In Modernism and Eugenics, first published in 2001, Donald Childs shows how Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats believed in eugenics, the science of race improvement and adapted this scientific discourse to the language and purposes of the modern imagination. Childs traces the impact of the eugenics movement on such modernist works as Mrs Dalloway, A Room of One's Own, The Waste Land and Yeats's late poetry and early plays. The language of eugenics moves, he claims, between public discourse and personal perspectives. It informs Woolf's theorization of woman's imagination; in Eliot's poetry, it pictures as a nightmare the myriad contemporary eugenical threats to humankind's biological and cultural future. And for Yeats, it becomes integral to his engagement with the occult and his commitment to Irish Nationalism. This is an interesting study of a controversial theme which reveals the centrality of eugenics in the life and work of several major modernist writers.

• The topics of eugenics and degeneration are timely and controversial in the field of modernist studies • The book puts forward highly original interpretations of works by Woolf, Eliot, and Yeats • This is an accessibly written book


Introduction; 1. Virginia Woolf's hereditary taint; 2. Boers, whores, and Mongols in Mrs Dalloway; 3. Body and biology in A Room of One's Own; 4. Eliot on biology and birthrates; 5. To breed or not to breed: the Eliots' question; 6. Fatal fertility in The Waste Land; 7. The late eugenics of W. B. Yeats; 8. Yeats and stirpiculture; 9. Yeats and The Sexual Question; Notes; Index.

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