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Neurasthenia in the life and work of Leonid Andreev

By the first decade of the twentieth century, Russia was experiencing a decadent period of cultural degeneration. Simultaneous with this artistic response, science was developing ways to identify medical conditions that supposedly reflected the health of the entire nation. Leonid Andreev (1871–1919), the leading literary figure of his time, stepped into the breech of this scientific discourse with literary works about degenerates. The spirited social debates on mental illness, morality and sexual deviance which resulted from these works became part of the ongoing battle over the definition and depiction of the irrational, complicated by Andreev’s own publicized bouts with neurasthenia. Specific to the study is the way in which Andreev readily accepted and incorporated scientific conjecture into his cultural production and how these works were in turn cited by medical authorities as confirmation of their theories, creating a circular argument. This book demonstrates the implications of scientific discourse on Russian concepts of mental illness and national health. It examines the concept of pathology in Russia, the influence of European medical discourse, the development of Russian psychiatry, and the role that it had on popular culture by investigating the life and works of Andreev. Although widely discussed in its European context, degeneration theory has not been afforded the same scholarly attention in Russian cultural studies. As a result, this study extends and challenges scholarship on the Russian fin de siècle, the emergence of psychiatry as a new medical science, and the role that art played in the development of this objective science.

Frederick H. White

2 Degeneration and decadence One issue in the study of mental illness labeling is how the features of mental illness labels are related to labels of disease and of crime and deviance. Psychiatrists typically consider mental illness to share the major characteristics of disease, while sociologists are more likely to regard mental illness as behavior that violates social norms. While mental illness labeling is related in certain ways to labels of both disease and deviance, it is greatly different from both of these categories. It is most appropriate to regard

in Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle
Inheritance, neurasthenia, criminals, and GPI
Amy Milne-Smith

inherent concerns. Mainly, what was the state of British manhood, was it tenable, and what did this say about the health of the nation? The articulation of such questions in both medical and popular literature points to a deepening pessimism about British manhood, one that coexisted with celebrations of the soldier-hero, the skilled worker, and the idea of the British gentleman as the apex of civilization. The mental collapse of men troubled a society obsessed with fears of degeneration and national decline. Particularly worrying were those who were

in Out of his mind
Andrew Smith

Daniel Pick’s authoritative study of theories of degeneration and their historical contexts, Faces of Degeneration (1989) charts the development of such theories from the 1840s to the end of the First World War. 3 Degeneration had its roots in the work of Bénédict Augustin Morel, who in the 1840s and 1850s attempted to explain psychological abnormalities through a theory of mental decline that was

in Victorian demons
Joanne Woiak

Discourses and policies that connected the concepts of alcoholism and degeneration were prominent sites at which disability was constructed in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Alcoholism was perceived as a ‘borderland’ disability, the boundaries of which were defined in distinct ways by members of various groups of professionals and reformers. Physicians, psychiatrists, temperance advocates and eugenicists promoted and contested a variety of ideas about the aetiology and effects of inebriety. These medical and eugenic discourses focused on

in Disability and the Victorians
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Degeneration in the Holy Land and the House of Usher
Molly Robey

Poe‘s preoccupation with degeneration, decay and dissolution is revealed in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, not only as synonymous with the image of the arabesque, but also as dependent on contrast with the word ‘Hebrew’. A reading of the Near East as Holy Land is made possible, Roderick Usher‘s decline likened to contemporary degeneration in terms of Palestine‘s decay. Poe‘s 1837 review of John Lloyd Stephen‘s Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, and the Holy Land exposes his interests in biblical prophecy (including its unintelligibility and yet endurance), millennialism and apocalypse. These themes are transferred to ‘Usher’ as the houses destruction is aligned with the images and structures of biblical prophecy. The storys treatments of landscape and the house itself explore notions of constructed sacred space. In the 1837 review, describing the illumination of prophecy as ‘no less remarkable’ than its fulfilment, Poe underlines a theme of revelation that is fictionalized within ‘Usher’. Prophecy as storytelling within the text provides a means of examining Poe against the historical context in which he wrote. Other ways in which Poe‘s writings reveal nineteenth-century religious structures are potentially numerous when considered against the prophecy framework.

Gothic Studies
Kristen J. Davis

The following considers Richard Marsh’s 1897 gothic novel The Beetle in relation to fin-de-siècle anxieties, specifically sexual deviancy, empire, and venereal disease. While the domestic Contagious Diseases Acts had been revealed in the 1880s, continued high rates of VD amongst British soldiers in particular continued the debate as to who was responsible for spreading diseases such as syphilis both at home and abroad. At a time of ‘colonial syphiliphobia’, to extend Showalter’s term, The Beetle suggests the necessity of regulating venereal disease in the Empire to protect Britain’s ‘racial superiority’ and conservatively warns against the potential consequences of dabbling with the sexually ‘deviant’ and dangerous Orient.

Gothic Studies
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On Worms and Skin in Bram Stoker‘s Later Fiction
David Glover

This essay examines The Lair of the White Worms cultural logic, its mobilization of that dense network of specific historical references - to mesmerism, physiognomy, alienism, degeneration, and theories of race - which underlies so much of Bram Stoker‘s output. It is argued that Stokers last novel can serve as a kind of summa for Stoker‘s entire oeuvre, casting a retrospective eye over precisely those ethnological concerns that had animated his writings from beginning to end. For, in Stoker‘s imaginary the monstrous is always inscribed within a topography of race that his novels at once challenge and confirm by bringing pressure to bear on the whole scientific project of a general anthropology at its most vulnerable point: the distinction between the human and the near-human, between the species form and its exceptions.

Gothic Studies
Jordan Kistler

The existing canon of scholarship on Dracula asserts that the sexually aggressive female vampires are representative of the New Woman, and thus are evidence of Stoker’s conservative reaction to changing gender roles. In contrast, this article offers a reinterpretation Dracula in the light of key writings of the New Woman movement which sought to demonize the Victorian marriage market because of its creation of a class of female parasites: idle middle-class woman entirely dependent on fathers and husbands. A close reading of key sections of the novel demonstrates that the female vampires are characterized as traditionally subordinate Victorian housewives, in contrast to the positive presentation of Mina Harker as a New Woman. This reading reveals a text that argues that work for women is the only antidote to the degeneration inherent in traditional womanhood, through which women are reduced to nothing more than their biological functions.

Gothic Studies
Theorizing the Nineteenth-Century Gothic Pharmography
Carol Margaret Davison

Liberty, a term dear to the Enlightenments emancipatory project, has long been a key concept in the Gothic. No branch of the Gothic more powerfully or creatively examines the complexities of the liberty question than the Gothic pharmography – a narrative chronicling drug/alcohol seduction and addiction. Drawing on three novelistic sub-genres – the Oriental tale, the imperial Gothic, and the Urban Gothic – the Gothic pharmography coalesces several distinct nineteenth-century debates – the nature of the will and liberal individualism; social oppression and conformity; urban and national degeneration; and British imperialist expansion, which involved the perceived anxiety-inducing sense of Britains growing economic dependence on the non-Western world. This essay offers an overview of the Gothic pharmography from the late eighteenth century through to the fin de siècle in Marie Corelli‘s Wormwood.

Gothic Studies