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Title:Injurious Distances: Mobility, Space, Realism
Author(s):Ridgway, Franklin W.
Director of Research:Foote, Stephanie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Foote, Stephanie
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Loughran, Patricia; Maxwell, William J.; Oberdeck, Kathryn J.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American literature
Gilded Age
Progressive Era
Mark Twain
Frank Norris
Theodore Dreiser
Abstract:American literary realism and naturalism emerged in an era in which the forces of capital were remaking not only the American social landscape, but also the physical landscape as such. Social upheaval was accompanied by new experiences of physical speed, telecommunications, and the mechanization of the urban grid As the traditional ordering of movement through space gave way to such new spatial phenomena as the Pullman sleeper, the stock-exchange floor, and the traffic jam, space itself quickly became more mediated by text. Text not only represented space, but textuality took on a more crucial role in the process of knowing and using spaces. This dissertation discusses how white middle-class authors of the American Gilded Age and Progressive Era struggled to interpret the fluidity of new American spaces. I argue that for Mark Twain, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser, physical motion and the continual remaking of the built environment enabled new kinds of subjectivity. Specifically, I assert texts such as Mark Twain’s early narratives, Norris’s The Octopus, and Dreiser’s An American Tragedy attempted to model ways of understanding new American spatialities, while betraying a persistent anxiety about the power of writing itself to render such spatialities transparent. Focusing on systems of mobility during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, I analyze the fundamental tensions in the texts under discussion, as well as on the way they addressed the material contradictions in systems of mobility around 1900. I argue that Twain, Norris, and Dreiser were ambivalent about the experience of motion and spatial ephemerality, and that that their writings therefore register the inherent difficulty in making sense of the technosocial systems undergirding those experiences.
Issue Date:2011-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Franklin Ridgway
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-01-22
Date Deposited:2010-12

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