Breeding the new woman : the eugenic discourse of motherhood in Shaw, Yeats, and Lawless Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/m900nx14f

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  • The popularity and pervasiveness of eugenic discourse during the modernist period in England and Ireland raised many questions about race, class, and gender. While Hitler's Nazi "experiment" ultimately demonstrated the consequences of implementing eugenic ideas, forcing eugenicists to abandon, or at least mask, their theories, the eugenics movement before World War II attracted scholars, scientists, and literary figures with disparate political and social agendas. One of the most significant impacts of eugenic thought was the position in which it placed women who, as a result of the various women's movements, were beginning to forego marriage in favor of education and careers. Eugenicists reconfigured motherhood as a tool for preserving and improving the race, seeking to return educated bourgeois women to the home and forcing them to choose between enjoying their newly won emancipation and "saving" the human race. This project examines the works of G.B. Shaw, W.B. Yeats, and Emily Lawless, who all participated in the discourse of motherhood and eugenics, though from very different political perspectives, each infusing their literature with eugenic language that reflects both the larger eugenic ideas of their era and their own separate social visions.
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