A satire of the Horatio Alger narrative, Nathanael West’s A Cool Million, or The Dismantling of Lemuel Pitkin gains comedic effect from its slapstick portrayal of a protagonist who is slowly dismantled and then reassembled. Whereas Alger privileges the myth of the self-made man, West’s representation of bodily injury suggests that the outcome of production is not success, but a body disassembled into its working parts. Exploring West’s reference to dismantling and subsequent replacement, this article considers the role of prosthetic logic in an era in which “productivity” centered on bodily intervention. As I argue, A Cool Million’s portrayal of the body as a prosthetic assemblage not only registers a shift in the conception of the modern man, but modernity’s political and economic belief in the re-building of the subject.


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pp. 53-79
Launched on MUSE
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