1st Edition

Art, Sex and Eugenics Corpus Delecti

Edited By Fae Brauer, Anthea Callen Copyright 2008
    316 Pages
    by Routledge

    316 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book reveals how art and sex promoted the desire for the genetically perfect body. Its eight chapters demonstrate that before eugenics was stigmatized by the Holocaust and Western histories were sanitized of its prevalence, a vast array of Western politicians, physicians, eugenic societies, family leagues, health associations, laboratories and museums advocated, through verbal and visual cultures, the breeding of 'the master race'. Each chapter illustrates the uncanny resemblances between models of sexual management and the perfect eugenic body in America, Britain, France, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany both before and after the Second World War. Traced back to the eighteenth-century anatomy lesson, the perfect eugenic body is revealed as athletic, hygienic, 'pure-blooded' and sexually potent. This paradigm is shown to have persisted as much during the Bolshevik sexual revolution, as in democratic nations and fascist regimes. Consistently posed naked, these images were unashamedly exhibitionist and voyeuristic. Despite stringent legislation against obscenity, not only were these images commended for soliciting the spectator's gaze but also for motivating the spectator to act out their desire. An examination of the counter-archives of Maori and African Americans also exposes how biologically racist eugenics could be equally challenged by art. Ultimately this book establishes that art inculcated procreative sex with the Corpus Delecti - the delectable body, healthy, wholesome and sanctioned by eugenicists for improving the Western race.

    Contents: Introduction: making eugenic bodies delectable: art, 'biopower' and 'scientia sexualis', Fae Brauer; Improper moves: Maori haka and racial destiny, Roger Blackley; The art of scientific propaganda, Shawn Michelle Smith; Eroticizing Lamarckian eugenics: the body stripped bare during French sexual neoregulation, Fae Brauer; Man or machine: ideals of the labouring male body and the aesthetics of industrial production in early 20th-century Europe, Anthea Callen; 'Desiring skin': eugenics, trauma and acting out of masculinities in British inter-war visual culture, Gabriel Koureas; 'The proper peep': conflicting female ideals under German National Socialism, Lorettann Gascard; Bolshevism and 'sexual revolution: visualising new Soviet woman as the eugenic ideal, Pat Simpson; Future perfect? The elusive 'ideal type', Christina Cogdell; Bibliography; Index.


    Fae Brauer is Research Professor in Visual Theory at the University of East London, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Theory at The University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts and author of many book essays and articles on visual cultures.

    Anthea Callen is Emeritus Professor of Visual Culture at the University of Nottingham and Research Associate at the University of Warwick Institute of Health. She has published extensively on Impressionism and late nineteenth-century culture, her most recent books being The Spectacular Body: Science, Method, and Meaning in the Work of Degas and The Art of Impressionism: Painting Technique and the Making of Modernity.

    Prize: Best Edited Book or Anthology for 2008, awarded by the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ)

    'This pioneering volume addresses a vitally important topic, and one that is at the cutting edge of research in history of art and visual culture. The geographical range of the contributions, from Soviet Russia to the South Seas, is splendid, and the essays present fascinating visual material that has hitherto remained hidden. This book provides an agenda for future research in the field.' Michael Hatt, University of Warwick, UK

    'A winning combination of stylish language and analytic insight, this book reassesses the art of eugenics. Here, artworks are discussed as social propaganda. Images of the perfect eugenic body take center-stage as the authors reveal how beauty and athleticism played a key role in promoting an ethos of wholesome heterosexuality during the early twentieth century in countries as culturally and politically diverse as France, Germany, Russia, New Zealand, America, and Britain. The healthy body was put on display through popular art - and by these subtle means individuals learned to focus their sexual desire on the perfect body, the "corpus delecti" of the subtitle and to disparage other bodies, those bodies steeped in racial prejudice. This compelling study shows how art and sex provided a double-whammy that reinforced racist and eugenic doctrines that once held powerful sway.' Janet Browne, Harvard University, USA