Popular Eugenics: National Efficiency and American Mass Culture in the 1930s

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Susan Currell, Christina Cogdell
Ohio University Press, 2006 - Social Science - 406 pages
The motto "Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution" was part of the logo of the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held in 1921. However, by the 1930s, the disturbing legacy of this motto had started to reveal itself in the construction of national identities in countries throughout the world. Popular Eugenics is a fascinating look at how such tendencies emerged within the rhetoric, ideology, and visual aesthetics of U.S. mass culture during the 1930s, offering detailed analysis of the way that eugenics appeared within popular culture and images of modernity, particularly during the Depression era.

The essays in this generously illustrated collection demonstrate how, after the scientific foundations of the eugenics movement had been weakened in the 1930s, eugenic beliefs spread into the popular media, including newspapers, movies, museum exhibits, plays, and novels, and even fashion shows and comic strips.

Popular Eugenics shows that eugenic thought persisted in science and culture as well as in social policy and goes a long way toward explaining the durability of eugenic thinking and its effects on social policy in the United States. Popular Eugenics will be of interest to scholars and students in a broad range of disciplines, especially American literature and history, popular culture, media studies, and the history of science.

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Page 7 - As for the cause of this unanimous torpor and doltishness, this curious and almost pathological estrangement from everything that makes for a civilized culture, I have hinted at it already, and now state it again. The South has simply been drained of all its best blood. The vast hemorrhage of the Civil War half exterminated and wholly paralyzed the old aristocracy, and so left the land to the harsh mercies of the poor white trash, now its masters. The war, of course, was not a complete massacre....

About the author (2006)

Susan Currell is a lecturer in American literature at the University of Sussex and the author of The March of Spare Time.

Christina Cogdell is an assistant professor of art history at the College of Santa Fe and the author of Eugenic Design: Streamlining America in the 1930s.

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