Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This essay analyzes Mark Twain’s late literary and technological projects as part of a larger effort to salvage historical consciousness within the antihistorical experience of spectacle. Focusing on works produced between 1880 and 1910, the essay traces Twain’s shifting articulations of the relation between modern technology and historical discourse through three stages: first, his embrace of the “spectacular” discourse of historical rupture endemic to second-stage industrialization, as exemplified in Twain’s writings on the Paige Compositor and in Hank Morgan’s “miracles” in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889); second, Twain’s mechanistic philosophy of history, in which “the machine” gives form to a vision of history as a long, unbroken chain of material causes and effects; and finally, a dialectical negation of these two positions, in which the illusory immediacy of visual technologies—including a board game, a roadway game, and photography—mediates vast networks of historical relations, providing a form of technological mediation suited to Twain’s critiques of US imperialism.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-7438
Print ISSN
2166-742X
Pages
pp. 103-130
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-02
Open Access
No
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