Fin de Siecle Essay

2789 Words Sep 20th, 2011 12 Pages
| | |Fin de Siècle Writing and Culture. |

Discuss any two fictional texts studied in the light of fin de siècle theories of degeneration. The era of the Victorian fin de siècle ‘…from the 1880s to the end of the century…generated an enormous amount of scientific and cultural debate concerning the future civilisation and the human race itself.’[1] It was an era of technical progress, Imperial gain, and a nation at the pinnacle of progress. ‘…bolstered by Darwin’s theory of evolution, Victorians regarded themselves and their society as the acme of human development.’[2] However, it was an era that balanced on the age of a new century that seemed to accentuate and
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This racial ‘other’ was considered a degenerate form, a reversion to the primitive ape. According to Darwin man had descended from the primitive ape and ‘…there was no absolute evolutionary separation from the world of animals, no escape from the stigma of that descent.’[6] Darwin’s theory of evolution provided the basis for the concepts of racial and cultural degeneration. Scientific theories of degeneration imminent at the time gave authority and validation to these fears of atavism, the reversion to the primitive state, and the threat of decline to the British nation. These theories impacted significantly on Victorian life and culture highlighting a preoccupation with degeneration that reflected in major literary works such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Gothic tale Olalla. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Stevenson’s Olalla, the manifestation of the threat of miscegenation, the threat to the pure, white British race is clearly apparent. ‘…the fear that the dark skinned ‘other’ will invade England and compromise its racial purity.[7] Dracula is, without doubt, placed as the degenerate foreign ‘other’ by Stoker. He is a foreigner, monstrous in appearance and deed, pagan and controlled by passion, the antithesis of the Victorian gentlemen and seen as the threat to western

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