Mocking Eugenics : American Culture against Scientific Hatred book cover
1st Edition

Mocking Eugenics
American Culture against Scientific Hatred

ISBN 9781032000893
Published July 29, 2021 by Routledge
186 Pages

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Book Description

Mocking Eugenics explores the opposition to eugenic discourse mounted by twentieth-century American artists seeking to challenge and destabilize what they viewed as a dangerous body of thought. Focusing on their wielding of humor to attack the contemporaneous science of heredity and the totalitarian impulse informing it, this book confronts the conflict between eugenic theories presented as grounded in scientific and metaphysical truth and the satirical treatment of eugenics as not only absurdly illogical but also antithetical to democratic ideals and inimical to humanistic values. Through analyses of the films of Charlie Chaplin and the fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Anita Loos, and Wallace Thurman, Mocking Eugenics examines their use of laughter to dismantle the rhetoric of perfectionism, white supremacy, and nativism that shaped mainstream expressions of American patriotism and normative white masculinity. As such, it will appeal to scholars of cultural studies, literature, cinema, sociology, humor, and American studies.

Table of Contents


1. “I am for the little man”: Charlie Chaplin’s comedies and the eugenic American

2. Is the “strenuous life” a pleasant life? Euthenic efficiency, racial duty, and the phenomenon of Anita Loos

3. Eugenic marriages and psychometrics in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi! and The Vegetable

4. Cosmopolitanism vs. eugenic racial nationalism: Ernest Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring and Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race

5. For “the betterment of the human family”? California sterilizations, Wallace Thurman, and Tomorrow’s Children

Conclusions: Could it have happened here? The borderline existence of anti-eugenic satire

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Ewa Barbara Luczak is Professor at the Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw and President of the Polish Association for American Studies. She is the author of How Their Living in Europe Affected Five African American Authors, Breeding and Eugenics in the American Literary Imagination: Heredity Rules in the Twentieth Century and the co-editor of New Cosmopolitanism, Race and Ethnicity: Cultural Perspectives.