Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
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Dhúill C.N.
German Life and Letters
'Ein neues, mächtiges volkstum': Eugenic discourse and its impact on the work of Gerhart Hauptmann
Scopus: 1 ()
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This essay compares the negative portrayal of dogmatic eugenicism in Gerhart Hauptmann's early play Vor Sonnenaufgang (1889) with ways in which the eugenics question was articulated in Hauptmann's later works, specifically the novels Atlantis (1912) and Die Insel der großen Mutter (1924). The differences between early and later iterations of this theme in Hauptmann's work are contextualised with reference to the increasing popularity of eugenics in the intervening period. The novels under consideration are shown to reflect the contemporary eugenicist commitment to the promotion of the healthy body as a cornerstone of social and cultural renewal. The appeal of eugenics to the maternalist feminism to which Hauptmann gave imaginative free rein in Die Insel der großen Mutter is located in the view of woman as guardian of the future. Building on recent research into the interaction between eugenic and aesthetic discourse in Hauptmann's dramas, the essay examines the function of eugenics as an aesthetics of reproduction which is shaped by and in turn contributes to the cultural construction of categories such as 'nature' and 'health'. © The author 2006.
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