Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

Scientific Americans: The Making of Popular Science and Evolution in Early-Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture

By: John Bruni(Author)

272 pages, 8 b/w illustrations

University of Wales Press

Hardback | Mar 2014 | #209696 | ISBN-13: 9781783160174
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £94.99 $128/€108 approx

About this book

Demonstrating the timely relevance of Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Jack London and Henry Adams, Scientific Americans shows how debates about evolution, identity, and a shifting world picture have uncanny parallels with the emerging global systems that shape our own lives. Tracing these systems' take-off point in the early twentieth century through the lens of popular science journalism, John Bruni makes a valuable contribution to the study of how biopolitical control over life created boundaries among races, classes, genders and species.

Rather than accept that these writers get their scientific ideas about evolution second-hand, filtered through a social Darwinist ideology, this study argues that they actively determine what evolution means. Furthermore Scientific Americans, examines the ecological concerns that naturalist narratives reflect – such as land and water use, waste management, and environmental pollution – previously unaddressed in a book-length study.


Introduction 3

Chapter 1: Popular Science, Evolution and Global Information Management 15
I. Reconstructing the Social and Scientific 15
II. Scientific and Cultural Narratives of Expansion 21
III. Information and Control Systems 32
IV. Historicizing Science 36

Interlude: Chapter 2 39
Chapter 2: Dirty Naturalism and the Regime of Thermodynamic Self-Organization 43
I. Social Regulation and the Power of Art 43
II. Self-Organization and Energy Flows 57
III. Ecocriticism and Thermodynamics 63
IV. Social Work and Moral Parasites 68

Interlude: Chapter 3 76
Chapter 3: The Ecology of Empire 79
I. The Call of the Wild and the National Frontier 80
II. Wild Fang and the Ideology of Domestication 91
III. The Multiplicity of Animal Bodies 97
IV. Ghosts of American Citizens 105
V. Where to Draw the Line? Biological Kinship and Legal Discourse 114

Interlude: Chapter 4 117
Chapter 4 After the Flood: Performance and Nation 120
I. Managing Life 120
II. Business Morality and Western Water Policy 128
III. 'Constitutional Restlessness' and 'Something Not Ourselves' 131
IV. Systems of Art: Perception and Communication 143
V. Pure Fiction 149

Interlude: Chapter 5 152
Chapter 5: The Miseducation of Henry Adams: Fantasies of Race, Citizenship and Biological Dynamos 155
I. Evolution as Historical Process 156
II. Thermodynamics and Citizenship 163
III. The New American as Techno-Subject 170
IV. Beyond Evolution: Information, Control and Paranoia 178
V. 'The Rule of Phase Applied to History' 183
VI. 'A Letter to American Teachers of History' 186

Conclusion 195
I. Henry Adams: Ecocritic? 195
II. 'Cyborg Politics' and the Techno-Scientific Regime 202
III. The American System and Global Debt 207
IV. Biopolitics and Posthuman Life: The Call of Jack London 213

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John Bruni teaches at Grand Valley State University. He writes about biopolitical and ecological issues in literary narratives and contemporary film.

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