The Literature of Connection: Signal, Medium, Interface, 1850-1950

ISBN : 9780198850472

David Trotter
304 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jun 2020
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This book is about some of the ways in which the world got ready to be connected, long before the advent of the technologies and the concentrations of capital necessary to implement a global 'network society'. It investigates the prehistory not of the communications 'revolution' brought about by advances in electronic digital computing from 1950 onwards, but of the principle of connectivity which was to provide that revolution with its justification and rallying-cry. Connectivity's core principle is that what matters most in any act of telecommunication, and sometimes all that matters, is the fact of its having happened. During the nineteenth century, the principle gained steadily increasing traction by means not only of formal systems such as the telegraph, but of an array of improvised methods and signalling devices. These methods and devices fulfilled not just an ever more urgent need, but a fundamental recurring desire, for near-instantaneous real-time communication at a distance. Connectivity became an end in itself: a complex, vivid, unpredictable romance woven through the enduring human desire and need for remote intimacy. Its magical enhancements are the stuff of tragedy, comedy, satire, elegy, lyric, melodrama, and plain description; of literature, in short.
The book develops the concepts of signal, medium, and interface to offer, in its first part, an alternative view of writing in Britain from George Eliot and Thomas Hardy to D.H. Lawrence, Hope Mirrlees, and Katherine Mansfield; and, in its second, case-studies of European and African-American fiction, and of interwar British cinema, designed to open the topic up for further enquiry.


Part I: British Literature: Victorian to Modernist
1 The Telegraphic Principle in Nineteenth-Century Fiction
2 The Interface as Cultural Form: Conrad's Sea Captains
3 After Electromagnetism
4 Starry Sky: Wyndham Lewis and Mina Loy
5 Giving the Sign: Katherine Mansfield's Stories
Part II: Case-Studies
6 Kafka's Strindberg
7 Women Spies
8 Flying Africans, Black Pilots

About the author: 

David Trotter is an Emeritus Professor of English literature at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of the British Academy. He has written widely about nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and culture, and about the history of theory of media.

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