Eugenic Women

From: 
2019

Eugenic Women is a subproject in the research programme Literary Knowledge (1890-1950): Modernisms and the Sciences in Europe. The project researches literature by German and British female authors who engaged in the widespread debate on eugenic science during the late 19th and early 20th century.  Eugenics sought to improve both the individual and the nation by simulating the process of natural selection to ward off the perceived threat of ‘degeneration’. By interfering with population growth and birth rates eugenics hoped to be more efficient in bringing about the ‘ideal’ human race. Due to women’s role within the reproductive system, this meant a direct interference with women’s life choices and the management of their bodies. But this is only one aspect of eugenics. For women, the science behind the eugenic ideal also provided a liberating potential from traditional models. Whether in Social stories, courtship plots, family sagas, bildungsnovels, art novels or New Women stories: British and German women writers intertwined the biological and genetic theories with feminist, social purist or pronatalist ideologies. This project investigates how scientific theories related to eugenics were presented in these works and what eugenics meant to aspects of women’s lives and feminist concerns.

Sponsors: 
KU Leuven Research Council