Patrick Brantlinger – USA

Linked to our presentations of Corporate America’s New Golden Rules.

Linked also to our presentation of Alternative Globalizations.

Patrick Brantlinger – USA

Patrick Brantlinger received his B.A. from Antioch College in 1963 and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University in 1965 and 1968. He joined the English Department at IUB in 1968, and was asked to serve as Book Review Editor of the Victorian Studies journal, which he did for several years. He became Editor of Victorian Studies and Director of the Victorian Studies Graduate Program in 1980, posts he held for a decade.

From 1990 to 1994, he served as Chair of the English Department. He was a co-founder and is an adjunct faculty member of the Cultural Studies Graduate Program. He has also served as President of the Midwest Victorian Studies Association; as an elected member of the Modern Language Association Victorian Committee; as an NEH Evaluator for the Actor’s Theater of Louisville; and on the editorial boards of several journals besides VS. And he has received Woodrow Wilson, Guggenheim, and NEH fellowships.

Primarily a cultural historian, Professor Brantlinger has written seven books, including The Spirit of Reform: British Literature and Politics, 1830-1900 (1977); Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay (1983); Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914 (1988); Crusoe’s Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America (1990); Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694-1994 (1996); The Reading Lesson: The Threat of Mass Literacy in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction (1998); and Who Killed Shakespeare? What’s Happened to English since the Radical Sixties (2001). He is also the editor of several volumes, including the forthcoming, co-edited Blackwell Companion to the Victorian Novel.

Besides the Rudy Professorship, Professor Brantlinger was named Distinguished Faculty Member for 2001 by the Alumni Association of the College of Arts and Sciences. Office: (812) 855-4939; Fax: (812) 855-9533; E-mail: brantli@indiana.edu.

The book Rule of Darkness – British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914 by Patrick Brantlinger. He examines here the commonly held nineteenth-century view that all “primitive” or “savage” races around the world were doomed sooner or later to extinction. Warlike propensities and presumed cannibalism were regarded as simultaneously noble and suicidal, accelerants of the downfall of other races after contact with white civilization. Brantlinger finds at the heart of this belief the stereotype of the self-exterminating savage, or the view that “savagery” is a sufficient explanation for the ultimate disappearance of “savages” from the grand theater of world history. Humanitarians, according to Brantlinger, saw the problem in the same terms of inevitability (or doom) as did scientists such as Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley as well as propagandists for empire such as Charles Wentworth Dilke and James Anthony Froude. Brantlinger analyzes the Irish Famine in the context of ideas and theories about primitive races in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. He shows that by the end of the nineteenth century, especially through the influence of the eugenics movement, extinction discourse was ironically applied to “the great white race” in various apocalyptic formulations. With the rise of fascism and Nazism, and with the gradual renewal of aboriginal populations in some parts of the world, by the 1930s the stereotypic idea of “fatal impact” began to unravel, as did also various more general forms of race-based thinking and of social Darwinism. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Book-Review:

In Dark Vanishings, Brantlinger analyzes the Irish Famine in the context of ideas and theories about primitive races in North America, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. He shows that by the end of the 19th century, especially through the influence of the eugenics movement, extinction discourse was ironically applied to the “great white race” in various apocalyptic ways.

“The Irish peasantry,” he said, “from the Elizabethan period forward, were often compared to ‘savages’ elsewhere in the world—except that they did not even have the ‘excuse’ of savage customs for their ignorance (or superstition: read, illiteracy and Catholicism), their poverty, their alleged overpopulation and their starvation. The famine was an example of mass extinction close to home, among a people of European race, Celtic, which seemed analogous to the extinctions of primitive, or non-Western races around the world under the impact of imperialism.”

According to Brantlinger, after Darwin, social Darwinists and “eugenicists” started to worry about the degeneration and possible extinction of “the great white race.” Francis Galton, Darwin’s cousin, coined the term “well-born” and founded the eugenics movement, the idea that the population could be improved by controlled breeding for desirable, inherited characteristics. Galton thought that biological inheritance of leadership qualities had determined the social status of the British ruling class.

“Especially through the eugenics movement,’ said Brantlinger, “the discourse about the extinction of so-called primitive races came home to roost in many ironic and often horrific ways, sterilization of the so-called ‘unfit,’ for instance.”
American eugenicists, many of whom privately supported the idea of euthanasia and genocide, popularized legally mandated sterilization of the socially inadequate in the early 20th century. The “socially inadequate” included those in institutions or those maintained wholly or in part at public expense. Also defined as “socially inadequate” were the feeble-minded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf, deformed and dependent, such as orphans, tramps, the homeless and paupers.

By 1914, when the Model Eugenical Sterilization Law was published, 12 states had already written such laws, including Indiana, which became the first to enact it by sterilizing a “degenerate” in 1907.

Brantlinger continues his look at the self-exterminating savage stereotype through the pre-World War II years. With the rise of fascism and Nazism, and with the gradual renewal of aboriginal populations in some parts of the world, by the 1930s the idea of “fatal impact” began to unravel, as did also various more general forms of race-based thinking and of social Darwinsim. (see on IU Home Pages).

Patrick Brantlinger is a man of wide interests and significant accomplishments. Currently Professor of English at Indiana University, he is the author of a number of often-cited books in the field of Victorian Studies including The Spirit of Reform (1977), Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1900 (1988), and, more recently, The Reading Lesson: Mass Literacy as Threat in British Fiction (1998). In addition, his interests in culture and history have won him a wider scholarly audience as he has ranged broadly over territory such as economic history, cultural studies theory, and theories of mass culture. Books such as Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture As Social Decay (1983), Crusoe’s Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America (1990), and Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694-1994 (1994) represent this side of Brantlinger: the cultural historian of impressive erudition. He served for ten years as editor of Victorian Studies and has won numerous fellowships and awards including a Guggenheim and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. (See on asu.edu).

IU Bloomington’s Patrick Brantlinger is the recipient of this year’s (2001) Distinguished Faculty Award from the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS). He was honored, along with Distinguished Alumni Award winner Jack Gill, at the COAS annual recognition banquet (see on Indiana edu).

Books: see on frontlist; see also on alibris; on Cornell University Press; and amazon.co.uk;
and

A Position Paper by Patrick Brantlinger and Janet Sorensen, for the Progressive Faculty Coalition of Indiana University.

links:

The Ian Fletcher Lectures;

uchicago;

The Character of Credit;

BRYN MAWR Review of comparative Literature;

Victorians Institute Meetings;

Uni New England;

utm.edu;

… English since the radical sixties;

A Response to Beyond the Cultural Turn.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.