Enlightenment-era writers had not yet come to take technology for granted, but nonetheless were—as we are today—both attracted to and repelled by its potential. This volume registers the deep history of such ambivalence, examining technology’s influence on Enlightenment British literature, as well as the impact of literature on conceptions of, attitudes toward, and implementations of technology. Offering a counterbalance to the abundance of studies on literature and science in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain, this volume’s focus encompasses approaches to literary history that help us understand technologies like the steam engine and the telegraph along with representations of technology in literature such as the “political machine.” Contributors ultimately show how literature across genres provided important sites for Enlightenment readers to recognize themselves as “chimeras”—“hybrids of machine and organism”—and to explore the modern self as “a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.”
In culture and scholarship, science-fictional worlds are perceived as unrealistic and altogether imaginary. Seo-Young Chu offers a bold challenge to this perception of the genre, arguing instead that science fiction is a form of “high-intensity realism” capable of representing non-imaginary objects that elude more traditional, “realist” modes of representation. Powered by lyric forces that allow it to transcend the dichotomy between the literal and the figurative, science fiction has the capacity to accommodate objects of representation that are themselves neither entirely figurative nor entirely literal in nature.Chu explores the globalized world, cyberspace, war trauma, the Korean concept of han, and the rights of robots, all as referents for which she locates science-fictional representations in poems, novels, music, films, visual pieces, and other works ranging within and without previous demarcations of the science fiction genre. In showing the divide between realism and science fiction to be illusory, Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep? sheds new light on the value of science fiction as an aesthetic and philosophical resource—one that matters more and more as our everyday realities grow increasingly resistant to straightforward representation.
Charles E. Robinson, Professor Emeritus of English at The University of Delaware, definitively transformed study of the novel Frankenstein with his foundational volume The Frankenstein Notebooks and, in nineteenth century studies more broadly, brought heightened attention to the nuances of writing and editing. Frankenstein and STEAM consolidates the generative legacy of his later work on the novel's broad relation to topics in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). Seven chapters written by leading and emerging scholars pay homage to Robinson's later perspectives of the novel and a concluding postscript contains remembrances by his colleagues and students. This volume not only makes explicit the question of what it means to be human, a question Robinson invited students and colleagues to examine throughout his career, but it also illustrates the depth of the field and diversity of those who have been inspired by Robinson's work. Frankenstein and STEAM offers direction for continuing scholarship on the intersections of literature, science, and technology.
Published by the University of Delaware Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
Imperial Media: Colonial Networks and Information Technologies in the British Literary Imagination, 1857–1918 brings together two of the most dynamic and productive approaches to the study of nineteenth-century literature in recent years—media studies and colonial studies—to illuminate the rich and enduring symbiosis that developed between information technologies and Empire. Over a century before Facebook and the iPhone, Britons relied on the electric media of their day for information about their global empire—but those media, which during Victoria’s reign stretched out its tentacles to form a true “world wide web,” not only delivered information but provided conceptual frames as well, helping to shape the way their users thought.
Ranging in space from the telegraph offices of Kipling’s India to the wireless transmitter on H.G. Wells’s Africanized moon, and in time from the Sepoy Rebellion to the Great War, Imperial Media reveals the extent to which British conceptions of imperial power were inflected by the new media of the nineteenth century: the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, radio, and cinema.
While focusing on the fiction of Kipling, Wells, Marie Corelli, H. Rider Haggard, and John Buchan (“the last Victorian,” in Gertrude Himmelfarb’s phrase), Aaron Worth also argues that the “imperial media” of the Victorians retain much of their imaginative life and power today, informing such popular entertainments of the twenty-first century as Bollywood cinema and the BBC’s science-fiction franchise Torchwood. This is a vital, engaging study that will shape future discussions of both colonial and information systems, as well as the relationship between the two, in Victorian studies and elsewhere.
"The Lives of Machines is intelligent, closely argued, and persuasive, and puts forth a contention that will unsettle the current consensus about Victorian attitudes toward the machine."
---Jay Clayton, Vanderbilt University
Today we commonly describe ourselves as machines that "let off steam" or feel "under pressure." The Lives of Machines investigates how Victorian technoculture came to shape this language of human emotion so pervasively and irrevocably and argues that nothing is more intensely human and affecting than the nonhuman. Tamara Ketabgian explores the emergence of a modern and more mechanical view of human nature in Victorian literature and culture.
Treating British literature from the 1830s to the 1870s, this study examines forms of feeling and community that combine the vital and the mechanical, the human and the nonhuman, in surprisingly hybrid and productive alliances. Challenging accounts of industrial alienation that still persist, the author defines mechanical character and feeling not as erasures or negations of self, but as robust and nuanced entities in their own right. The Lives of Machines thus offers an alternate cultural history that traces sympathies between humans, animals, and machines in novels and nonfiction about factory work as well as in other unexpected literary sites and genres, whether domestic, scientific, musical, or philosophical. Ketabgian historicizes a model of affect and community that continues to inform recent theories of technology, psychology, and the posthuman.
The Lives of Machines will be of interest to students of British literature and history, history of science and of technology, novel studies, psychoanalysis, and postmodern cultural studies.
Cover image: "Power Loom Factory of Thomas Robinson," from Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of Manufactures (London: Charles Knight, 1835), frontispiece.
DIGITALCULTUREBOOKS: a collaborative imprint of the University of Michigan Press and the University of Michigan Library
Michael Joyce's new collection continues to examine the connections between the poles of art and instruction, writing and teaching in the form of what Joyce has called theoretical narratives, pieces that are both narratives of theory and texts in which theory often takes the form of narrative. His concerns include hypertext and interactive fiction, the geography of cyberspace, and interactive film, and Joyce here searches out the emergence of network culture in spaces ranging from the shifting nature of the library to MOOs and other virtual spaces to life along a river.
While in this collection Joyce continues to be one of our most lyrical, wide-ranging, and informed cultural critics and theorists of new media, his essays exhibit an evolving distrust of unconsidered claims for newness in the midst of what Joyce calls "the blizzard of the next," as well as a recurrent insistence upon grounding our experience of the emergence of network culture in the body.
Michael Joyce is Associate Professor of English, Vassar College. He is author of a number of hypertext fictions on the web and on disk, most notably Afternoon: A Story.
His previous books are Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics and Moral Tale and Meditations: Technological Parables and Refractions.
An enlightening examination of the relationship between poetry and the information technologies increasingly used to read and write it
Many poets and their readers believe poetry helps us escape straightforward, logical ways of thinking. But what happens when poems confront the extraordinarily rational information technologies that are everywhere in the academy, not to mention everyday life?
Examining a broad array of electronics—including the radio, telephone, tape recorder, Cold War–era computers, and modern-day web browsers—Seth Perlow considers how these technologies transform poems that we don’t normally consider “digital.” From fetishistic attachments to digital images of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts to Jackson Mac Low’s appropriation of a huge book of random numbers originally used to design thermonuclear weapons, these investigations take Perlow through a revealingly eclectic array of work, offering both exciting new voices and reevaluations of poets we thought we knew.
With close readings of Gertrude Stein, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, and many others, The Poem Electric constructs a distinctive lineage of experimental writers, from the 1860s to today. Ultimately, Perlow mounts an important investigation into how electronic media allows us to distinguish poetic thought from rationalism. Posing a necessary challenge to the privilege of information in the digital humanities, The Poem Electric develops new ways of reading poetry, alongside and against the electronic equipment that is now ubiquitous in our world.
What happens to literature in an age of digital technology? Regards Croisés: Perspectives on Digital Literature provides an answer, with a collection of cutting-edge critical essays on literature gone digital. Regards Croisés is an important addition to existing research on digital literature, and will appeal to scholars of electronic writing, digital art,humanities computing, media and communication, and others interested in the field. It offers a significant advance in the field through its wide-angle perspective that globalizes digital literature and diversifies the current critical paradigms. Regards Croisés shows how digital literature connects with traditions and future directions of reading and writing communities all over the world. With contributions by authors from eight countries and three continents, the collection presents points of view on a transcontinental practice of digital literature. Regards Croisés also opens dialogues with expanded critical paradigms of digital literature, beyond earlier critical concern with the aesthetics of the screen as a space of hypertext links. Many of the essays recognize a rich history and ongoing literary practice engaged with the basic fact of the computer as a programmable device. Other essays explore the latest developments in social media and Web 2.0 as venues for digital literature. Regards Croisés shows the vibrant engagement of writers and readers with literary practice in a digital world.
By bringing together original fiction by well-known contemporary writers (William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Kathy Acker, J. G. Ballard, Samuel R. Delany), critical commentary by some of the major theorists of postmodern art and culture (Jacques Derrida, Fredric Jameson, Timothy Leary, Jean-François Lyotard), and work by major practitioners of cyberpunk (William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Bruce Sterling), Storming the Reality Studio reveals a fascinating ongoing dialog in contemporary culture.
What emerges most strikingly from the colloquy is a shared preoccupation with the force of technology in shaping modern life. It is precisely this concern, according to McCaffery, that has put science fiction, typically the province of technological art, at the forefront of creative explorations of our unique age.A rich opporunity for reading across genres, this anthology offers a new perspective on the evolution of postmodern culture and ultimately shows how deeply technological developments have influenced our vision and our art.
Selected Fiction contributors: Kathy Acker, J. G. Ballard, William S. Burroughs, Pat Cadigan, Samuel R. Delany, Don DeLillo, William Gibson, Harold Jaffe, Richard Kadrey, Marc Laidlaw, Mark Leyner, Joseph McElroy, Misha, Ted Mooney, Thomas Pynchon, Rudy Rucker, Lucius Shepard, Lewis Shiner, John Shirley, Bruce Sterling, William Vollman
Selected Non-Fiction contributors: Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida, Joan Gordon, Veronica Hollinger, Fredric Jameson, Arthur Kroker and David Cook, Timothy Leary, Jean-François Lyotard, Larry McCaffery, Brian McHale, Dave Porush, Bruce Sterling, Darko Suvin, Takayuki Tatsumi
After the second World War, the term “technology” came to signify both the anxieties of possible annihilation in a rapidly changing world and the exhilaration of accelerating cultural change. Technomodern Poetics examines how some of the most well-known writers of the era described the tensions between technical, literary, and media cultures at the dawn of the Digital Age. Poets and writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Jack Kerouac, and Frank O’Hara, among others, anthologized in Donald Allen’s iconic The New American Poetry, 1945–1960, provided a canon of work that has proven increasingly relevant to our technological present. Elaborating on the theories of contemporaneous technologists such as Norbert Wiener, Claude Shannon, J. C. R. Licklider, and a host of noteworthy others, these artists express the anxieties and avant-garde impulses they wrestled with as they came to terms with a complex array of issues raised by the dawning of the nuclear age, computer-based automation, and the expansive reach of electronic media. As author Todd Tietchen reveals, even as these writers were generating novel forms and concerns, they often continued to question whether such technological changes were inherently progressive or destructive.
With an undeniable timeliness, Tietchen’s book is sure to appeal to courses in modern English literature and American studies, as well as among fans of Beat writers and early Cold War culture.
Histories of the book often move straight from the codex to the digital screen. Left out of that familiar account are nearly 150 years of audio recordings. Recounting the fascinating history of audio-recorded literature, Matthew Rubery traces the path of innovation from Edison’s recitation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for his tinfoil phonograph in 1877, to the first novel-length talking books made for blinded World War I veterans, to today’s billion-dollar audiobook industry.The Untold Story of the Talking Book focuses on the social impact of audiobooks, not just the technological history, in telling a story of surprising and impassioned conflicts: from controversies over which books the Library of Congress selected to become talking books—yes to Kipling, no to Flaubert—to debates about what defines a reader. Delving into the vexed relationship between spoken and printed texts, Rubery argues that storytelling can be just as engaging with the ears as with the eyes, and that audiobooks deserve to be taken seriously. They are not mere derivatives of printed books but their own form of entertainment.We have come a long way from the era of sound recorded on wax cylinders, when people imagined one day hearing entire novels on mini-phonographs tucked inside their hats. Rubery tells the untold story of this incredible evolution and, in doing so, breaks from convention by treating audiobooks as a distinctively modern art form that has profoundly influenced the way we read.
In Virtual Modernism, Katherine Biers offers a fresh view of the emergence of American literary modernism from the eruption of popular culture in the early twentieth century. Employing dynamic readings of the works of Stephen Crane, Henry James, James Weldon Johnson, Djuna Barnes, and Gertrude Stein, she argues that American modernist writers developed a “poetics of the virtual” in response to the rise of mass communications technologies before World War I. These authors’ modernist formal experimentation was provoked by the immediate, individualistic pleasures and thrills of mass culture. But they also retained a faith in the representational power of language—and the worth of common experience—more characteristic of realism and naturalism. In competition with new media experiences such as movies and recorded music, they simultaneously rejected and embraced modernity.
Biers establishes the virtual poetics of these five writers as part of a larger “virtual turn” in the United States, when a fascination with the writings of Henri Bergson, William James, and vitalist philosophy—and the idea of virtual experience—swept the nation. Virtual Modernism contends that a turn to the virtual experience of language was a way for each of these authors to carve out a value for the literary, both with and against the growth of mass entertainments. This technologically inspired reengagement with experience was formative for American modernism.
Situated at the crossing points of literary criticism, philosophy, media studies, and history, Virtual Modernism provides an examination of Progressive Era preoccupations with the cognitive and corporeal effects of new media technologies that traces an important genealogy of present-day concerns with virtuality.
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