Primative doctor and eugenic priest: Grant Allen, M.P. Shiel, and the future of the Victorian medical man

Small, D. R.J. (2018) Primative doctor and eugenic priest: Grant Allen, M.P. Shiel, and the future of the Victorian medical man. Journal of Literature and Science, 11(2), pp. 40-61.

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M.P. Shiel’s 1895 short story “The S.S.” ends with the protagonist, Prince Zaleski, contemplating the future of the medical profession. Zaleski imagines a future where eugenic health is venerated as a new religion, and where the physician has been remade into “the Sacrificial Priest.” A similar image of the medical future appears in Grant Allen’s story “The Child of the Phalanstery,” (1884) which depicts a future world where the healthy body is viewed as sacred to “divine humanity” and in which each community’s chief “physiologist” is responsible for sacrificing any deformed children on the “alter of humanity.” This article argues that Allen and Shiel’s images of the future medical man represent a confluence of hitherto overlooked trends in fin-de-siècle anthropological, medical, and eugenic discourse. Victorian Anthropological analyses asserted that the primitive doctor was identical with the priest, and that the body had occupied a central position in man’s earliest religious thought. Concurrently, proponents of eugenics presented their movement as a potential religion of the future, which would sanctify the human body. As such, this article examines both the imagined past and future of the fin-de-siècle medical man to reveal the medical profession’s role as a potential priesthood of the body.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Small, Dr Douglas
Authors: Small, D. R.J.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Journal of Literature and Science
Publisher:University of South Wales
ISSN (Online):1754-646X
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Author
First Published:First published in Journal of Literature and Science 11(2): 40-61
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
708771Medical Humanities Fellowship, 'Cocaine and Cultural Mythology, c.1860-1919'Douglas SmallWellcome Trust (WELLCOTR)200353/Z/15/ZCRIT - ENGLISH LITERATURE