20190926_040836539.pdf - towards the religious or cultish mysticism is predominant in Nordau’s exposé of the degeneracy manifest in the art and

20190926_040836539.pdf - towards the religious or cultish...

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towards the religious or cultish, mysticism is predominant in Nordau’s exposé of the degeneracy manifest in the art and literature of the period. Quoting Legrain, Nordau explains that the only possible output of the mystic, whose condition inclines him to ‘inane reverie’, will be abortive, and Legrain notes the ‘“peculiar contrast”’ in his excessively developed imaginative powers and his incapacity for ‘“great thoughts and prolific ideas”’.42 According to Lombroso, and enthusiastically embraced by 40 Nordau, p. 22. 41 Nordau, p. 21. To corroborate his assertion Nordau cites the case notes of Magnan, a degenerate patient who, ‘“thought of seeking for the philosopher’s stone, and of making gold”’. The source of the case notes cited is referenced in a footnote as follows: ‘Magnan, “Considérations sur la Folie des Héréditaires ou Dégénerés,” Progrès medical, 1886, p. 1110 (in the report of a medical case)’, p. 21. 42 Legrain, in Nordau, p. 24. Paul-Maurice Legrain (1860-1939) was a major contributor to the pool of theories describing the process of degeneration, and hence, was one of the most extreme advocates of the temperance movement that emerged in late nineteenth-century France. 60 Nordau, the mystic’s intellectual and creative output is always anachronistic and shallow. If they are artistic ‘“their predominant attribute will be the colour- sense”’, and writes Lombroso, ‘“they will be decorative”’; ‘“If they are poets, they will be rich in rhyme, brilliant in style, but barren of thought”’, and he adds, ‘“sometimes they will be ‘decadents’.”’43 Whatever his artistic inclination if he has one, the mystic can produce nothing of practical or intellectual interest to any person beyond those of his immediate degenerate milieu. Nordau’s treatment of the mystic, compared with his treatment of other degenerate tendencies and types, suggests that the mystic attracts the most severe criticism on account of his perceived complicity in his own degenerate state and by implication in the fin-de-siècle crisis as a whole. Degeneration develops a theory of
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  • Spring '16
  • jessy
  • Cesare Lombroso, degeneration, Nordau

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