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Imperial Media

Colonial Networks and Information Technologies in the British Literary Imagination, 1857–1918

Aaron Worth

Publication Year: 2014

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.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Portions of this book were initially presented as papers at the Victorian Literature and Culture seminar at Harvard University’s Mahindra Humanities Center; at the Modern Language Association, Northeast Victorian Studies Association, and North American Victorian Studies Association conferences...

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pp. 1-8

Among the novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2010 was Tom McCarthy’s C, a self-proclaimed avant-gardist’s foray into the realm of historical fiction. C follows the fortunes (to quote the book’s jacket copy) “of Serge Carrefax, a man who—as his name suggests—surges into the electric modernity...

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1. Imperial Cybernetics

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pp. 9-35

In an early, comic scene from Mangal Pandey: The Rising, Bollywood’s 2005 epic-melodrama of the 1857 “mutiny,” a group of Indian men, pointedly seated amid a stand of hookahs (indices of “tradition”), express disbelief at a report of the “taelly garaffe” allegedly now “connect[ing] the entire country through...

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2. Imperial Projections

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pp. 36-59

Having narrowly escaped massacre at the hands of a troop of knife-wielding “Kukuanas”—the mythical, “lost” African race featured in Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885)—the fast-thinking, polytropic Allan Quatermain improvises a Große Lüge of Hitlerian scale and audacity. Flashing “an imperial...

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3. Imperial Transmissions

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pp. 60-79

Reflecting, in his Outline of History (1920), upon the past glories of imperial China, and particularly upon its precocious invention of gunpowder, H. G. Wells marvels that the Chinese “[do] not to this day dominate the world culturally and politically” (555). In speculating about the possible causes of this...

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4. Imperial Informatics

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pp. 80-113

In John Buchan’s spy thriller Greenmantle (1916), Buchan’s hero, Richard Hannay, twice escapes the clutches of the hulking, fanatical Colonel von Stumm: first in the very heart of the German Empire, then on the outer fringes of its influence, at the Russo-Turkish border. On this second occasion Hannay...

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Coda: Post-Imperial Media

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pp. 114-118

I began this study of the Victorian and post-Victorian periods by considering a novel published in 2010. I’d like to conclude by looking briefly at another twenty-first-century exercise in a residual or archaic medium—in this case, a 2009 radio drama. Torchwood: Golden Age is a radio spinoff of the BBC science...


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pp. 119-133


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pp. 134-141


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pp. 142-146

E-ISBN-13: 9780814271384
E-ISBN-10: 0814271383
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212516
Print-ISBN-10: 0814212514

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 877907906
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Imperial Media

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Literature and technology.
  • English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Mass media and literature.
  • Information technology in literature.
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