"Frankenstein's Disciples: Tampering with Life and the Danger of Eugenics"

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Longxi Zhang

(City University of Hong Kong)

"Frankenstein's Disciples: Tampering with Life and the Danger of Eugenics"


Paper presented to the conference:

"Crafting Humans:From Genesis to Eugenics and Beyond"

8-10 September 2011, Queens College, Oxford


Second Annual Conference of the Berendel Foundation, in association with the Centre for health Medicine and Societyand History of Race and Eugenics Research Groupat Oxford Brookes University, the University of Oxford, and the Wellcome Trust


Abstract: G. K. Chesterton’s Eugenics and Other Evils (1922) represents a critique of eugenics in early twentieth century, but Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) already anticipated much of the modern critique of scientism and human hubris, particularly the attempt to create a human life through scientific means. In the early twentieth century, eugenics easily deteriorated into racism and Nazi racial policies. It also manifested in the Japanese attempt at changing the racial stock to become ‘European’. This paper will discuss the Nazi connection and the danger of eugenics, and concludes with some reflections on science and the limits of instrumental rationality.


Short Bio: Longxi Zhang is currently Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation at City University of Hong Kong. He is an elected foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, a memberof the Executive Council of the International Comparative Literature Association, and an Advisory Editor of New Literary History. His research interests are East-West cross-culturalstudies, and his major book publications include The Tao and the Logos: Literary Hermeneutics, East and West (Duke University Press, 1992); Mighty Opposites: From Dichotomies to Differences in the Comparative Study of China (Stanford University Press, 1998); Allegoresis: Reading Canonical Literature East and West(Cornell University Press, 2005); Unexpected Affinities: Reading across Cultures (University of Toronto Press, 2007).



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