Just a heads-up: beginning Tuesday we’ll have four class meetings on Frank Norris’s strange novel Vandover and the Brute. My passionate hope is that everybody’ll have that reading completed (including appendices) by Thursday 3/29 if not by Tuesday 3/27. In the meantime I want you all thinking about “the duality of man”– as Sgt. Joker would phrase it. Consider yourself: are you good or bad? What would the EVIL version of yourself look like? Would such a strange doppelgänger— your Dark Twin— simply intensify your own worst traits?
The character of Vandover embodies some of the most disturbing cultural anxieties of the fin-de-siècle (end of the century) era. Among these fears is the eugenicist paranoia that Western Civilization necessarily saps natural vitality, generating cohort after cohort of neurasthenic degenerates. Pay close attention: we have arrived at the moment when a naturalist version of the Gothic has entered the labyrinth of Race– that ultimate social fiction.