11) From this point on, in the 1870s, the abnormal behavior designated by the term "moral insanity" or "moral imbecility" was increasingly associated with degenerationist
models of criminality, and remained so once moral insanity came to be regarded as either a subcategory or a symptom of the class of mental disease known after 1880 as "psychopathic inferiority.
43) Taking a more degenerationist
perspective, another contemporary newspaper report warned how "superstitions about the Aurora Borealis seem uncomfortable traces of the period when our ancestors were running wild in woods, undisturbed by any desire for hosiery.
While this element of causelessness effectively challenges the conventional notion of physiological types that populated eugenic and degenerationist
discourses of the period, Gordon also demonstrates its value as a theory of pure being, in the same domain as Bergson's virtuality or Deleuze's singularity.
Of course, Lafitau's degenerationist
theory, which argued that our first parents lost the gift of an ideal religion, relied not so much on biblical fundamentalism as on a Catholic dogmatic tradition that called for literal exegesis.
In addition to its affinities with the degenerationist themes of contemporary Gothic fiction, Dorian Gray also shows unmistakable traces of contemporary non-fictional degenerationist writings, especially Richard von Krafft-Ebing's theory of the etiology of sexual perversion, specifically homosexuality.
Read in the context of Krafft-Ebing's theories of a congenital neuropatic predisposition to degeneracy, Dorian's speculation that "his very flesh was tainted with the monstrous maladies of the dead" (DG 90: 253; italics added) is not only a fin-de-siecle version of what Richard Davenport-Hines calls "[G]othic's obsession with family secrets and hereditary doom" (11) but also evidence of the extent to which degenerationist discourse has penetrated Wilde's text.
Clearly, this degenerationist discourse has seeped into Dorian Gray.
Hence, the Earl's "treatment" of Barbara's epilepsy can be seen as coming from a degenerationist point of view.
Despite her degenerationist fear of the lower class, Barbara also suffers from paralyzing self-hatred because she desires one of its members.
Degenerationists such as Max Nordau and the alienist who founded Britain's premier psychiatric institution, Henry Maudsley, were as irresistibly in vogue among the intelligentsia of the time as, say, Edward Said at a later date.
It was held by degenerationists also that the Industrial Revolution had brought about the physical and mental deterioration of the population, producing a race of physically and mentally stunted Untermenschen who, of course, bred true, and whose one highly regrettable sign of vigor was a tendency to breed faster than the physically fitter and mentally more gifted members of society.
The health warning provided by the degenerationists
about the baleful effect of Post Impressionist art hugely promoted the reputation of the exhibition.