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EUTHANASIA AND (D)EVOLUTION IN SPECULATIVE FICTION

  • Nancee Reeves (a1)
Abstract

In the latter part of the nineteenth century future or speculative fiction became big business in Britain. It was a safe haven for invasion narratives, for socialist paradises or hells, for worlds ruled by benevolent machines, or worlds ruined by mechanical dependence. Themes and plots were varied, but they always reflected some facet of contemporary society. The future was not a bubble, untouched by time or trouble, but a field of battle, where ideas could be tested and philosophies given a test drive. The future was a place where the mistakes or triumphs of today dictated the course of human progress. I argue in this essay that the nascent ideas about euthanasia of the early and middle Victorian period became full-fledged philosophies in the late-Victorian period and that Malthusian philosophy and Darwinian-informed theories were manipulated by novelist and theorist-turned- novelists, resulting in euthanasia becoming a tool in class warfare and in the fight to eradicate social undesirables for their good and for the good of society.

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David Barker . “How to Curb the Fertility of the Unfit: The Feeble-Minded in Edwardian Britain.” Oxford Review of Education 9.3 (1983): 197211.

Helen Lucy Blythe . “ The Fixed Period (1882): Euthanasia, Cannibalism, and Colonial Extinction in Trollope's Antipodes.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 25.2 (2002): 161–80.

Karen Chase . The Victorians and Old Age. London: Oxford UP, 2009.

Pat Jalland . Death in the Victorian Family. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

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Victorian Literature and Culture
  • ISSN: 1060-1503
  • EISSN: 1470-1553
  • URL: /core/journals/victorian-literature-and-culture
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