Edited By Curt Dudley-Marling and Alex Gurn
6 Evolutionary Anxiety, Monstrosity, and the Birth of Normality - Steven A. Gelb 71
The publication in 1886 of Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic tale The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde created a sensation in England (Dury, 2004). Readers shuddered over the transformation of the good, respectable physician Dr. Jekyll into his terrifyingly murderous alter ego, Mr. Hyde, a repulsive, animal- like insinuation of a human being. Hyde’s mere appearance inspired revulsion in all who saw him. He was “deformed” (p. 12), “apelike” (p. 73), “troglodytic” (p. 18), “like a rat,” and compared to “a dwarf ” (p. 44). His terrible character matched his appearance. For sheer enjoyment Hyde trampled a young girl and beat a man to death with a cane. A character observed about Hyde that “there was something abnormal and misbegotten in the very essence of the creature” (p. 54). Mr. Hyde is more than a mere literary creation. He is a prototype of abnor- mality as the category was developed just before the 20th century. The anxiety that resulted from Darwin’s connection of humanity and animals catalyzed the late 19th century project to distinguish normality from abnormality. Longstand- ing myths about human-animal monsters mixed together with evolutionary theory resulted in western society’s projection of its most detested and disas- sociated attributes into the category of abnormality. In this chapter I argue that in spite of its scientiﬁc imprimatur, the normality/abnormality dichotomy was infused with irrationalism at its conception. But before turning to this history I discuss the problematic pre-suppositions of the normality/abnormality binary. SIX Evolutionary Anxiety, Monstrosity, and...
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