* Return to "the Henry James scholar's Guide to Web Sites" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 1: "Still Seduced by the Exquisitely Ambiguous? Of Contestation, Polarization, and _The American Scene_" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 2: "Pushkin in 'The Aspern Papers'" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 3: "Ghosts at the Windows: Shadow and Corona in _The Ambassadors_" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 4: "Observing Femininity: Peter Bogdanovich's _Daisy Miller_ (1974)" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 5: "The Portrait Without a Subject: German Re-visioning, the Self, Nature, and the Jamesian Novel" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 6: "A Virtual Henry James" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 7: "James Cellan Jones's View of Female Potential in The Portrait of a Lady (1968) and The Golden Bowl (1972)" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 8: "Henry James and a 'Sense' of Place: The Modalities of Perception" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 9: "Hate's Rebate, Or Love's Largesse: Back to Back on the 'Bench of Desolation'" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 10: Review of Acting Beautifully: Henry James and the Ethical Aesthetic * - Review by Greg W. Zacharias
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 11: "In Defence of Henry James" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal Number 12: "Cityscapes - A re-reading of Henry James' _The Ambassadors_" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 13: "Eliot Rewritten, James Revisited" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 14: "A Journey to Realism: From Balzac to James through Melodrama" *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 16: "The 'Reversed Chapters' in The Ambassadors* *
* Go to The Henry James E-Journal, Number 17: "More Than a 'Player': James Brand Pinker and the Literary Estate of Henry James" *
(-: The Henry James E-Journal :-)Number 15
September 18, 2012
Editors: Richard D. Hathaway and Gert Buelens. Articles should be submitted by email to Richard Hathaway (email@example.com), in Microsoft Word or Rich Text (.rtf) format, with double-spacing between paragraphs and only between paragraphs. Except for using parenthetical citations, with a Works Cited section at the end, the format need not follow the MLA style sheet. The Web is international, and we leave authors free to use whatever style sheet they wish.
The time between submission of an article and, if accepted, its posting as a link from "the Henry James scholar's Guide to Web Sites" can be as little as three weeks.
Copyright to an article published in The Henry James E-Journal is retained by the author, but permission is hereby granted to make reproductions for such non-commercial use as distribution by a teacher to a class.
NOTE: Downloading this article in Text format is not recommended, as it will insert paragraph breaks at the end of every line, making Searches that cross line breaks problematic. The Web Page options make it possible to view the downloaded file in a browser. But if the downloaded html file is viewed in a word processor, italics will be indicated by i /i tags, long quotations by blockquote....blockquote tags, and paragraph breaks by P tags. (Tags viewed thus are enclosed in angled brackets.)
A 'Bright-Eyed Animal': Atavistic Genius in Roderick Hudson
by Elizabeth Harris McCormick, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
Imagination. A wide word. It has in some of its meanings a very lofty function; in others, it expresses the utter degradation of the human powers.
Alexander Bain, Education as a Science, 1879.
Genius was priceless, inspired, divine; but it was also, at its hours, capricious, sinister, cruel; and men of genius, accordingly, were alternately very enviable and very helpless.
Henry James, Roderick Hudson, 1875.
The late Victorian period witnessed dramatic transformations in scientific and popular notions of creativity. This fact should come as no surprise for it took place within the context of a true renaissance era of psychological inquiry, symbolically bookended by Darwin and Freud. Though it was the "birthday" of professional specialization in psychology, this nascent science had not yet matured into practical isolation from popular culture.(i) Because of this open exchange of ideas, writers from all intellectual walks of life derived insights about creativity from the specific discourses of their disciplines. Most found links between their unique interests, from evolution to hedonism to spiritualism, and the ongoing study of the imagination.
The conversation -- implicit in some areas and more explicit in others -- appears to have gone on not only in every discipline, but also in synthetic ways between them. Nicholas Ruddick notes that during this time, "fiction writers and psychologists were already looking to each other as collaborators -- or rivals -- in the exploration of the dark continent of the human mind" (203). This was especially true in the case of Henry James, one of the first and best writers to make theory rather than simply stage it. His interest in the artistic consciousness as well as his proximity to some of the most cutting-edge intellectuals of his day (not the least of whom was his famed brother, William) attuned him uniquely to contemporary ideas about the human mind.(ii) Beginning with 1866's "A Landscape Painter" and continuing throughout his career, James's tales took artists and writers as frequent protagonists, choices that reveal a continuing interest in the nature of imagination.(iii)
Roderick Hudson, published in 1875, is an early and extended literary thought-experiment on the evolutionary nature of creative genius. It portrays the artistic development of its titular hero, an American sculptor of extraordinary talent, and then chronicles the devastating crash of his ability and vitality. Roderick's gifts emerge out of a paradoxical state; truly bestial traits are part and parcel of his imagination-driven personality, yet this same creativity grants him entrée into the superhuman strata of divine power. He truly embodies the "painful complexity of genius" (309). This is no accident: James's rise-and-fall narrative relies on competing evolution-inflected discourses about the imagination. The aftereffects of Darwin's evolutionary discoveries on the study of human creativity were extensive. As James composed Roderick Hudson, conceptualizations of imagination's bidirectional potential to propel its possessor forward or back through evolutionary levels were burgeoning themes in both medical and literary discourses.
This is because the scientific study of imagination emerged out of "New Psychology," a biology-based movement disproportionately operating out of asylums and sanitariums across Europe.(iv) This approach removed all spiritual, divine or otherwise-supernatural causations from a wide range of aberrant or "unknowable" psychic states -- a taxonomical grouping in which imagination often took center stage. In its worldview, artists were less akin to seers than they were to psychotics. Its combination with the almost compulsive application of evolutionary schema to every aspect of human experience and behavior created an ongoing debate about the atavistic status of human imagination in the "ascent" of faculties from beast to primitive to man.
This is an interesting development, for the idea that imagination triggered evolutionary backsliding is found nowhere in Darwin. In his Descent of Man, the great zoologist briefly and unequivocally saluted the value of imagination in the progress of mankind, calling imagination "one of the highest prerogatives of man" and crediting this faculty with the creation of "brilliant and novel results" (74). It was not the presence but the level of complexity that set human imaginative cognition apart from (and above) that of animals. Though he saw evidence of lower imaginative activity in "beasts," he viewed humanity's greater creative power as the result of a "step by step" progression away from earlier animal forms. He claims that, for its part in propelling humankind's brilliant use of invention, imagination had been "of inestimable service to man for his progressive advancement" (93). However, like a vestigial tail, the evolutionary window of highest value for imagination was long past. This genealogy is consistent with Darwin's larger hierarchy of mental faculties in that it buttresses the Enlightenment ideal of reason alone standing "on the summit . . . of all the faculties of the human mind" (75).(v)
Alongside Darwin's straightforward phylogenic ideas about imagination and evolution came other, metaphorically looser, ones. Some aligned creativity sociogenically with less evolved phases of human development -- temporally with "primitives" and by analogy with the assumed atavism of artists, women and the insane. Others focused on the ontogenic development of children as small-scale recapitulations of the larger movements of evolution.(vi) The assumption in anthropological writing was that the study of the "primitive" would reveal humanity's heritage. "Uncivilized" peoples were positioned in the evolutionary great chain of being between bestial and modern consciousness. That they were seen as closer to the former is suggested by de Pressence's extremely popular (and extremely racist) turn of phrase, "Scratch the savage . . . and you will find the monkey" (467). He goes on to identify "uncivilized nations" with "primitive humanity by the animal nature attributed to them" (467). Just as he sees beasts concealed within savages, he posits savages lurking beneath the surface of modern humans.
We have to ascertain whether our civilization, with all its intellectual and artistic development, moral and religious, is really only a brilliant disguise, beneath which it would be easy to discover the anthropoid, but little removed from his rude primeval state (467).
If modern civilization in sum was seen as "but little removed" from its rude state, some members of its population were even less so. Public discourses and fears about "degeneration" were bound to those of atavistic operation, trace, or decline in a wide swath of the population. Not only the insane, but also children, primitives and artists were routinely credited with possessing "bestial" inclinations.
In these theories, fantasy and creativity were often key features correlated to atavism. By 1892, the Dictionary of Psychological Medicine defines "degenerated" individuals of all stripes as those who have "a very lively imagination[s]" (70). For a wide swath of the anthropological writing in the period, the too-powerful fantasy connected the atavistic modern person -- particularly the artist - with the savage.(vii) In Primitive Culture, Taylor demonstrated the ways "a poet of our own day has still much in common with the minds of uncultured tribes in the mythological stage of thought." While he separated the "narrow, crude, and repulsive" imaginings of the "rude" primitive man from "the poet's more conscious fictions . . . highly wrought into shapes of fresh artistic beauty," there was one fundamental link (315). Primitive and poet alike tend to believe that the things they imagine are real. Ribot's definition of primitive man as "a purely imaginative being" created a definitional rubric that supported his conclusion that "many contemporary poets, novelists and artists would be primitive" (118). Frazer elaborates on this comparative dyad.
Only in poets' dreams or impassioned flights of oratory is it given to catch a glimpse of the last flutter of the standards of the retreating host, to hear the beat of their invisible wings, the sound of their mocking laughter, or the swell of angel music dying away in the distance. Far otherwise is it with the savage. To his imagination the world still teems with those motley beings whom a more sober philosophy has discarded. Fairies and goblins, ghosts and demons, still hover about him both waking and sleeping (40).
He saw in the poet's creativity only a diluted hint of the savage's raw imaginative power. While the poet may have become, under the reason-loosening power of the dream state or a burst of logorrheic mania, a medium vaguely channeling his primitive ancestor, evolution had drastically tamed his imaginative powers. The implication is that a creative person, were he or she in full possession of the same imaginative force as the primitive, would suffer from the same psychotic and paranoiac relation to daily life.
This anthropological writing echoes the formulations in texts like Henry Maudsley's Physiology and Pathology of Mind which consolidated creative genius with epilepsy, idiocy, hysteria and insanity by means of a shared cause: messy neurology. Maudsley, a heavyweight Victorian alienist, set the tone of the burgeoning evolutionary psychology movement and its strange internal logic. The firmly theorized co-existence of body and mind promoted a practice of defining any unusual mental operation, like standout creativity, as a primarily aberrational one and of assigning physical etiologies to psychic disturbances. Within this new paradigm, the working medical definition of insanity was constructed in such a way that it could easily incorporate all non-normative thought and behavior -- including the excessive creative imagination of the artist. In Body and Mind, the insane (and their neurologically 'malfunctioning' brothers and sisters) are described as clearly revealing "animal traits and instincts" in a "faint echo from a far distant past" (51-52). His examples were permanently atavistic and always moving backwards in evolutionary time. Indeed, neuropathic traits were theorized as virulently inheritable and aggressively degenerative.(viii)
A countercurrent to this is available in the prolific writings of Alexander Bain and William James. Both men repeatedly challenged the solely degenerative conception of imagination by positioning creativity as a rare but elevated developmental phase of humankind. While Bain didn't deny its "lowest" functions, he focused on "the highest meaning of Imagination" which he identifies as "the creative faculty of the poet or the artist" (125). William James, too, conceded "the nature of genius has been illuminated by the attempts to class it with psychopathical phenomena, borderland insanity, crankiness, insane temperament, loss of mental balance and psychopathical degeneration" (Varieties 16). However, he points out the logical flaw in the thinking. For "after having succeeded in establishing . . . that the works of genus are the fruits of disease" these authors rarely progress to the next logical step -- they never "impugn the value of these fruits" (16). James, the fledgling pragmatist, here makes the case that the very aesthetic and social value of art can be held as a kind of proof that it is de facto the result of a valuable, and not a diseased, mind.
By1890, William James went further than celebrating the general intelligence of the human animal. He placed special emphasis on the superlative human development of creative genius. In so doing, he challenged Darwin's hierarchy of mental operations. In Principles of Psychology's definition of genius as an extreme gift for and practice of mental associations, James described two variants. The first group, comprised of scientists and philosophers, were analysts who noticed and investigated associative bonds. The "men of intuition," in the second group, were poets and artists who "obeyed" these bonds without necessarily understanding them. James recognized that it would be easy to consider the analyzing mind a superior intelligence while thinking that the "intuitive mind represented simply an arrested stage of intellectual development" (361). However, he immediately clarifies his position by stating that the valuation of kinds of genius is not this simple. For men in whom "all the accidents of analogy rise up as vividly as this," the Homers and Tennysons of the world, he thought that the "richness of the aesthetic nature . . . may keep [them] in the intuitive stage" (361-362). Like a variant limb on the evolutionary tree, the artist may have developed along a different line, marked by emotional richness so potent it trumped the survival advantages of analytical thought and reason. If not altogether another species, the artist clearly followed an alternative developmental route than that suggested by theories of normative psychological maturation.
Indeed, the major contribution of James and Bain to the discourse about imagination was their effort to replace negative theories of creativity-as-arrested-development with positive formulations of creativity-as-abundance. They offered a non-critical theory of psychic variation within the human species by suggesting a qualitative balance between creative and analytic genius. While the analyst manifested stronger reason and critical intelligence, this may have masked psychological deficiency. For Bain, "a man's advance to the scientific stage may often be due to an absence of emotional sensibilities" (qtd. in James, Principles 361). The inference was, of course, that the presence of emotional sensibility could propel a genius towards artistic creation. Raw emotive force wove the evolutionary highs and lows of imagination together. Both advanced artistic creation and "low and easy" outpourings were thought to equally rely on the chaos of the emotional state.
Henry James's "emotional and passionate" Roderick Hudson embodies much of this cultural ferment (351). His introduction as a novice artist already suggests a latent atavism. Though his body is underdeveloped, his "insufficient physical substance" is compensated for by a never-ending well of emotional energy -- a "mysterious fund of nervous force, which outlasted and outwearied the endurance of many a sturdier temperament." His genius has yet to fully manifest, yet his "generous" grey eyes reveal his budding gifts. They are described as filled with enough life "to furnish an immortality!" (181). Yet they still only intermittently reveal "a sort of kindling glow" of genius (182). Perhaps because Roderick's imaginative "flame is smouldering," he remains bewildered and "hopelessly discontented" (185). The young sculptor manages this mixed state by operating at a manic pace.(ix) He does "everything too fast" and admits "I can't be slow if I try. There's something inside of me that drives me. A restless fiend!" (179; 180). This inner force bears a family resemblance to the primitive self many speculated lived just beneath the surface of the modern artist.
Rowland Mallet, soon after meeting Roderick, attempts to describe the creative psyche and its mode of action. That James was well versed in contemporary theories of creativity is made clear: the speaker begins by acknowledging that his ideas about creativity are nearly verbatim citations from "a book" he's been reading.(x) This well-heeled businessman compares the youth's "great talent in action" to a kind of "somnambulism" through which "the artist performs great feats, in a dream" (183-4). This modality is a precarious one: others "must not wake him up, lest he should lose his balance" (184). The exercise of the imagination, in its fullest force, is presented as a balancing act on the precipice between health and mental disarray. Since the sculptor is described as constitutionally wild, such a fall would be severe. To paraphrase Dr. Jekyll, in this trance state Roderick risks "slowly losing hold of [his] original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with [his] second and worse" (Stevenson 48).
Rowland takes on the patronizing tone of the anthropologist in his next descriptions of Roderick. He claims the young man belongs to "the race of mortals, to be pitied or envied according as we view the matter, who are not held to a strict account for their aggressions" (187). This formulation -- code for the subject's lower evolutionary status -- excuses violent behavior on account of a fundamentally uncontrollable atavism. The paragraph goes further down the regressive trail. Soon Rowland describes Roderick as a beast -- a "beautiful, supple, restless, bright-eyed animal" (187). Though the sculptor is "impulsive, spontaneous, sincere," his "undiluted naturalness" has a dark side: an essential violence latent in his psyche (233). Within days of "becoming" an artist, Roderick suddenly exclaims twin brutal desires: "to strike out hard!" and to "to do something violent, to let off steam!" (213).(xi) However, the novel does not merely develop the character as a beast-man. Instead, it offers evolutionary equivocations about the imagination and the artist. Its simplest formulation is uttered - albeit in moralistic terms - by Roderick himself: "When you have gotten the artist to deal with, you must take him as he is, good and bad together" (311).
Henry James includes these "good and bad" traits, or rather sub- and superhuman elements, in his depictions of Roderick's gifts. The sculptor's first masterpiece makes a clear analogy between artistic genius and heavenly creativity: Roderick literally molds a statue out of clay and gives it the name Adam.(xii) Much later in the narrative, Roderick's love-interest, Christina Light, suggests both Roderick's degraded and elevated (even heroic) status as other than "a common mortal" (303). She acknowledges that "he has no manners" and is ruled by an aggressive instinct like an uncouth savage (303). However, she wonders if the seemingly-primal forces "urging, driving, pushing him, making him restless and defiant," might be higher-order ones revealing his "sacred fire" (304). Rowland also considers Roderick's chaotic imaginative energy. He develops his earlier ideas about the somnambulism of Roderick's genius by now describing it as an autonomous force acting upon, rather than emanating from, the sculptor. His sense is that Roderick frequently stands "helpless in the grasp of his temperament" (310). James -- through Rowland - posits a kind of evolutionary exchange rate between Roderick's gifts and liabilities. He exclaims that the sculptor's narcissism, violence and moodiness seem "so mixed up with the temper of [his] genius and the very structure of [his] mind that often one was willing to take the evil with the good and to be thankful that, considering [his] great talent, [he was] no worse" (409). Though Roderick has given great gifts to society, his imaginative psychology has left him on the razor's edge of sanity, consciousness and even survival.
Rowland's mixed criticisms of Roderick (valid and well-deserved though they are) violate the principle that one must refrain from waking up the artist from his half-conscious state for fear of upsetting his balance. In the weeks following the confrontation, Roderick's gifts are in "eclipse" and his affective state in abject disarray (456). Though he is in a "restless, reckless, profoundly demoralized condition," Roderick describes his debased and impotent position with "cruel eloquence" to Rowland and to his mother, who has come to collect him from Europe (442; 443). He describes his yearlong devolution from a "mighty fine fellow" to one "gone to the devil" (443).
I'm an angry, savage, disappointed, miserable man! . . . I can't do a stroke of work nor think a profitable thought! I mean that I'm in a state of helpless rage and grief and shame! Helpless -- helpless -- that's what it is. . . . (443)
Now woken from the "trance" state of genius, Roderick is only a scared and confused beast. His artistic power is transformed to helplessness. His seemingly careless "cavalier" approach to the feelings of others has become a cesspool of negative affect and self-reproach.
The artist's disequilibrium is made literal in the novel's denouement: in the wake of his fight with Rowland, Roderick literally loses his balance. Wandering the mountainside in a storm, he falls off of a cliff. Rowland imagines the moments leading up to Roderick's fall.
Roderick's passionate walk had carried him farther and higher than he knew; he had outstayed, supposably, the first menace of the storm, and perhaps even found a defiant entertainment in watching it. Perhaps he had simply lost himself. The tempest had overtaken him, and when he tried to return, it was too late (510).
The artist's creative biography is condensed into this demise scene. However, the post-mortem imagined scenario's depiction of Roderick's up-and-down journey loses much of its evolutionary import. It is true that the sculptor's creative journey required a loss of self and journey into emotional "tempests" so intense that return was impossible. However, the implications are no longer that he fell backward in evolutionary time. Rather, Rowland mythologizes his diseased friend's experience. Icarus-like, Roderick flew too high in the service of experience beyond normal human boundaries; Icarus-like, he fell.
Henry James would obsessively revisit and revise his ideas of the psychology of creativity over the remaining decades of his career. This early novel, with its explicit characterization of the artist as a personality type as haunted by atavistic vitality and violence as he is elevated by his genius, represents a baseline for his increasingly nuanced portrayals. It also sets the stage for the darker literature about the atavism -- and danger -- of the creative imagination popular in the fin de siècle. Some novels, like Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and Rachilde's Monsieur Vénus (1884), feature actual artists as well as their models, audiences and artworks. Others extend this dangerous creative power to include the imaginative products and practices of fantastic science, like H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) or Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's novel L'Éve Future (1878). In these tales, the era's belief in the unstable psychology of creativity and, therefore, in the necessarily hazardous atmosphere surrounding acts of artistic production is made explicit. They reveal that many people imagined artists to be dangerous social figures precisely because their minds were theorized as giving way all too easily to the illogical powers of creative modalities related or analogous to violence, atavism and lost control (temporary or constitutional) of the operating consciousness. Though this may not have been a universally held concept, in the years following Roderick Hudson it became the default mode for literary depictions of artistic and imaginative people.(xiii)
i. A case in point: papers on psychological topics still had to be submitted under the aegis of other disciplines (Anthropology, Education or Physiology) for the British Association of the Advancement of Science until 1921. This disciplinary flexibility led to a polyvocal discourse. Rick Rylance notes "Economists, imaginative writers, philosophers, clerics, literary critics, policy-makers, as well as biomedical scientists contributed to its formulation. It was an unshapely, accommodating, contested, emergent, energetic discipline, filled with dispute and without settled lines of theory or protocols for investigation" (7).
ii. The ongoing exchange of ideas is clear in their letters, collected and published in 1997 as William and Henry James: Selected Letters. Eds. Ignas K. Skrupskelis and Elizabeth M. Berkeley. Its implications for their work is considered in detail in Daniel W. Bjork's 1983 The Compromised Scientist: William James in the Development of American Psychology, Richard A. Hocks's 1974 Henry James and Pragmatistic Thought: a Study in the Relationship between the Philosophy of William James and the Literary Art of Henry James and F. O. Matthiessen's 1947 The James Family: Including Selections from the Writings of Henry James, Senior, William, Henry & Alice James.
iii. A very partial list of his tales of artists struggling through the linked psychic processes of creation, identity and relationship to others would include The Tragic Muse, "The Real Thing," "The Middle Years," "Nona Vincent," and "The Madonna of the Future." He also took a look at non-artistic modes of the imagination in such seminal stories as "The Turn of Screw" and "In the Cage." His particular interest in the phenomenon of the imagination is discussed in Philip M. Weinstein's Henry James and the Requirements of the Imagination, Carren Kaston's Imagination and Desire in the Novels of Henry James and Daniel J. Schneider's The Crystal Cage: Adventures of the Imagination in the Fiction of Henry James.
iv. Writing for The Fortnightly in 1879, William L. Courtney explained the implications of such a shift: "'The New Psychology' may be summed up in one word -- the study of biology. It is biology which has brought about the recognition of the 'organism' as one of the elements of psychological research. . .it is biology, again, which has suggested, if not initiated, the application of the law of development to the phenomena of the human mind" (318-19).
v. George Romanes followed Darwin in creating an evolutionary taxonomy of imagination in his 1884 Mental Evolution of Animals. He found "the highest development of the faculty" in "the imaginations of the poet, imaginations of the heart, [and] scientific use of the imagination" (154). However, for Romanes, to belong to this highest evolutionary level, the imagination must be marked by the application of "intention," "abstraction" and "set purpose" to this activity towards an "ideal" (154). In other words: the only good imagination was one subservient to reason and moral ideation.
vi. Atavistic formulations of creativity and emotion informed the period's study of early child development. James Sully, in his 1895 Studies of Childhood, linked creative action and emotion in the child. In his work, creative imagination was "intimately bound up with the life of feeling" (27). Like many of his peers, he saw creativity as a degenerative return to earlier and less evolved forms. In 1881, he announced to the scientific community and to the general readership of Cornhill Magazine that "the baby" had "become an important object of scientific study." "Sharing in the spirit of positive science," namely the Darwinian structure whereby an organism's increased complexity from its early evolutionary forebears did not eradicate the traces of those "primitive" earlier editions, Sully was one of many who would, by analogy, apply this model of development to the individual human psyche (Babies 544). Bourne Taylor notes that the epoch's discussion of childhood primarily took place "within the framework of recapitulation." She cites Ernst Haeckel as originating the period's thinking that "ontogeny, the growth of an individual organism, mirrors or recapitulates phylogeny, the wider process of evolution" (22).
vii. Recent critical inquiry into late Victorian interest in theorizing "primitive" culture includes Christine Ferguson's Language, Science and Popular Fiction in the Victorian fin-de-siècle: the Brutal Tongue (2006) and Peter Melville Logan's Victorian Fetishism: Intellectuals and Primitives (2009). A slightly earlier work is also relevant: Christopher Herbert's Culture and Anomie: Ethnographic Imagination in the Nineteenth Century (1991).
viii. For all his mechanistic talk, his theory combined a mytho-evolutionary line of thought with severe moral overtones. Much of this writing sounded more like the period's science fiction than its science. Maudsley described neurological problems as "punishments" handed down for the sins of the past. This moral devolution created a social wasteland populated by "multitudes of human beings" who "come into the world weighted with the destiny against which they have neither the will nor the power to contend." They are the "step-children of nature who groan under the worst of all tyrannies -- the tyranny of a bad organization" (Body 43; emphasis added). The mis-wired of this world comprised a post-Darwinian cursed house of Atreus where fate and destiny punish offspring with a new fury: mental pathology.
ix. William James describes creativity in similar terms. For him, it manifested "a seething caldron of ideas, where everything is fizzling and bobbling about in a state of bewildering activity, where partnerships can be joined or loosened in an instant, treadmill routine is unknown, and the unexpected seems the only law" (Great Men 456).
x. Several years earlier, F. H. Hedge had described genius as analogous to sleepwalking in the Atlantic Monthly. Henry Maudsley would later write, "It is beyond question that the mind can do as good work in dreams as it ever does when awake -- indeed, better imaginative work" (Natural 160).
xi. The reverse is also true. Once Roderick's imaginative genius loses power, his atavistic nature also wanes; he has less "ennui" and is "rarely violent" (456).
xii. Or perhaps he anticipates Dr. Creighton-Browne who would, in 1884, compare primitives to children due to their "imaginative transformation of objects" via "myth-making" -- particularly by applying their endless curiosity to the production of origin-stories (379).
xiii. The link between creative genius and atavism remains strong as late as 1903, when the infamous Kurtz of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a man portrayed as not only having fallen from British respectability into violent primitivism, but also as a "universal genius" of the arts (90; 174). In the heart of the jungle, it is an amorphous creativity that predisposes this "prodigy" to the atavistic regression he undergoes (90). The diverse and diffuse suggestions of Kurtz's creativity include the narrator being "arrested" by a stunning painting Kurtz has made of a blindfolded woman carrying light into the darkness (90). Later, Kurtz's cousin describes him as "essentially a great musician" (174). This enigmatic figure is described as a professional writer and electrifying talker as well (175).
Bain, Alexander. Education as a Science. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1879.
Bourne Taylor, Jenny. "Psychology at the Fin de Siècle." The Cambridge Companion to the Fin de Siècle. Ed. Gail Marshall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2007. 13-30.
Conrad, Joseph. "Heart of Darkness." Youth: and Two Other Stories. New York: Doubleday, 1903.
Courtney, William L. "The New Psychology." Fortnightly No. 26 (1879): 318-19.
Crighton-Browne, James. "Education and the Nervous System." The Book of Health. Ed. Malcolm Morris. London: Cassell, 1884. 269-380.
Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man, Vol. 1: New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1871.
de Pressence, E. A Study of Origins; Or, the Problems of Knowledge, of Being, and of Duty. 2nd Edition. New York: James Pott & Co., 1885.
A Dictionary of Psychological Medicine Giving the Definition, Etymology and Synonyms of the Terms Used in Medical Psychology with the Symptoms, Treatment and Pathology of Insanity and The Law of Lunacy in Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. I. Ed. D. Hack Tuke. London: J. & A. Churchill, 1892.
Ferguson, Christine. Language, Science and Popular Fiction in the Victorian fin-de-siècle: the Brutal Tongue. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006.
Frazer, J.G. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Vol. I2: 2nd Edition. New York: Macmillan Ltd., 1900. .
Herbert, Christopher. Culture and Anomie: Ethnographic Imagination in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Hedge, F.H. "Characteristics of Genius," The Atlantic Monthly. Vol. 21. 1868. p. 155.
Hocks, Richard A. Henry James and Pragmatistic Thought: a Study in the Relationship between the Philosophy of William James and the Literary Art of Henry James. Durham: The University of North Carolina Press, 1974.
James, Henry. Roderick Hudson. Henry James: Novels 1871-1880. New York: Library of America, 1983 . 163-511.
James, William. "Great Men, Great Thoughts and the Environment." The Atlantic Monthly. Vol. XLVI, No. CCLXXVI. (Oct. 1880): 456.
---. Principles of Psychology. Vol. I. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1919 .
James, William and Henry. William and Henry James: Selected Letters. Eds. Ignas K. Skrupskelis and Elizabeth M. Berkeley, Charlottesville, University of Virginia, 1997.
Kaston, Carren. Imagination and Desire in the Novels of Henry James. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1984.
Logan, Peter Melville. Victorian Fetishism: Intellectuals and Primitives. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009.
Matthiessen, F. O. The James Family: Including Selections from the Writings of Henry James, Senior, William, Henry & Alice James. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1947.
Maudsley, Henry. Body and Mind. 2nd edition. London: Macmillan, 1873.
---. Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench & Co., 1886.
---. The Physiology and Pathology of the Mind. London: MacMillan, 1867.
Rachilde. Monsieur Vénus. trans. Madeleine Boyd. The Decadent Reader. Ed. Asti Hustvedt. New York: Zone Books, 1998. . 269-274.
Ribot, Théophile. Essay on the Creative Imagination. Trans. Albert H. N. Baron. Chicago: Open Court,  1906.
Romanes, George John. Mental Evolution in Animals. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1884.
Ruddick, Nicholas. "The Fantastic Fiction of the Fin de Siècle." The Cambridge Companion to the Fin de Siècle. Ed. Gail Marshall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 189-206.
Rylance, Rick, Victorian Psychology and British Culture 1850-1880. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror. Ed. Robert Mighall. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003. .
Sully, James. "Babies and Science." Cornhill Magazine, 43 (1881): 543-45.
---. Studies of Childhood, 2nd edition, London: Longman, Green & Co.  1986.
Taylor, Edward B.T. Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom, Vol. I. 3rd American Edition. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1889. .
Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Auguste. L'Éve Future: Oeuvres Complètes Vol. 1. Paris: Mercure de France,  1922.
Weinstein, Philip M. Henry James and the Requirements of the Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1971.
Wells, H.G. The Island of Dr. Moreau. Ed. Mason Harris. Buffalo, NY: Broadview Press, 2009.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. (June 10, 1890): 1-100.