Social imaginaries: The literature of eugenics

Abstract
This paper starts from a premise relating to the act of fictional writing about eugenics and the way it may be understood as the embodiment and enactment of social imaginaries. It proposes that literature frequently, if not habitually, expresses the underside of what is expressed in public discourse. That is, far from being the implement of state policy or intervention, it acts in counterpoint to the state, constituting a type of social fantasy in that it explores through the realm of the imagination what might happen. It becomes the arena for contestation, exploration, and nuancing as it essays how ideas from public, ‘real’ life, might transform when acted out. The paper considers two sorts of literary case. First it looks at that of ‘naïve’ literature, harnessed unashamedly to a specific sociological discourse of eugenics. Then, using primarily Ibsen, it considers a subset, the case of literature that does not set out to be explicitly in the service of the cause of eugenics, but is appropriated and disseminated from a platform of eugenics. Lastly, taking the example of Unamuno’s Amor y pedagogía the paper considers literature that exists in a quite different sphere of public awareness. It shows awareness of the arguments and precepts of eugenics and related beliefs and practices, but acts as a transitional space to enable such ideas to be entertained and thought about, without a requirement of acceptance or belief
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