Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture

Paperback | April 14, 2006

byJay Clayton

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Charles Dickens in Cyberspace opens a window on a startling set of literary and scientific links between contemporary American culture and the nineteenth-century heritage it often repudiates. Surveying a wide range of novelists, scientists, filmmakers, and theorists from the past twocenturies, Jay Clayton traces the concealed circuits that connect the telegraph with the Internet, Charles Babbage's Difference Engine with the digital computer, Frankenstein's monster with cyborgs and clones, and Dickens' life and fiction with all manner of contemporary popular culture--from comicbooks and advertising to recent novels and films. In the process, Clayton argues for two important principles: that postmodernism has a hidden or repressed connection with the nineteenth-century and that revealing those connections can aid in the development of a historical cultural studies. InCharles Dickens in Cyberspace nineteenth-century figures--Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Ada Lovelace, Joseph Paxton, Mary Shelley, and Mary Somerville--meet a lively group of counterparts from today: Andrea Barrett, Greg Bear, Peter Carey, Helene Cixous,Alfonso Cuaron, William Gibson, Donna Haraway, David Lean, Richard Powers, Salman Rushdie, Ridley Scott, Susan Sontag, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, and Tom Stoppard. The juxtaposition of such a diverse cast of characters leads to a new way of understanding the "undisciplined culture" the twoeras share, an understanding that can suggest ways to heal the gap that has long separated literature from science. Combining storytelling and scholarship, this engaging study demonstrates in its own practice the value of a self-reflective stance toward cultural history. Its personal voice,narrative strategies, multiple points of view, recursive loops, and irony emphasize the improvisational nature of the methods it employs. Yet its argument is serious and urgent: that the afterlife of the nineteenth century continues to shape the present in diverse and sometimes conflictingways.

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Charles Dickens in Cyberspace opens a window on a startling set of literary and scientific links between contemporary American culture and the nineteenth-century heritage it often repudiates. Surveying a wide range of novelists, scientists, filmmakers, and theorists from the past twocenturies, Jay Clayton traces the concealed circuits ...

Jay Clayton is Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.68 inPublished:April 14, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195313267

ISBN - 13:9780195313260

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"In this landmark study, postmodernity's final break with the Enlightenment is prefigured across the uneven disciplinary development of nineteenth-century technoculture, from telegraphy and automata through Darwinian anticipations of 'genome time.' Anchored in a brimming crosscurrent ofliterary detail and buoyed by a venturesome narrative prose of its own, this blithely original book defends the explanatory powers of lived anachronism against the death-of-history school. Resisting utopian futurism in his broad new program for cultural studies, Clayton has achieved in the process awork of utopian historicism. The Victorian moment is ours again."--Garrett Stewart, University of Iowa