Feb 18 2009

Erewhon : or, Over the range / Samuel Butler

by at 2:58 am

So, that Oxford World’s Classics edition of Literature and Science in the Ninteteenth Century finally came in and it’s definitely a keeper! It’s got a great overview of just about every movement in scientific thought from the nineteenth century, plus there’s excerpts from nineteenth-century literary texts that represent these ideas. One of these texts, under the Bodies and Machines heading, is called Erewhon : or, Over the range. It was published annoymously, but Samuel Butler actually wrote it. It’s a dystopic/utopic book with 3 chapters entitled “The Book of Machines” and he talks of the day when machines will liberate themselves from the yolk of man. I think I could definitely make the case that he is playing with the popularized notion that technology replaced slavery. As “slaves,” Butler imagines an eventual revolt. I just requested this text from the library. Exciting!! So, I’m definitely thinking I’m going to widen my thesis…it’s not JUST electricity, although electricity would definitely come into play…but it’s more factory or machine power (which, is, of course tied to machine power as well). So, I guess I’m interested in the general ways Victorian technology is used to stand-in as metaphors for larger issues. I really can’t wait to read the entire book…the little excerpt that I did read was fascinating!

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