The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science And Technology After Napoleon

Paperback | November 27, 2014

byJohn Tresch

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In the years immediately following Napoleon’s defeat, French thinkers in all fields set their minds to the problem of how to recover from the long upheavals that had been set into motion by the French Revolution. Many challenged the Enlightenment’s emphasis on mechanics and questioned the rising power of machines, seeking a return to the organic unity of an earlier age and triggering the artistic and philosophical movement of romanticism. Previous scholars have viewed romanticism and industrialization in opposition, but in this groundbreaking volume John Tresch reveals how thoroughly entwined science and the arts were in early nineteenth-century France and how they worked together to unite a fractured society.

Focusing on a set of celebrated technologies, including steam engines, electromagnetic and geophysical instruments, early photography, and mass-scale printing, Tresch looks at how new conceptions of energy, instrumentality, and association fueled such diverse developments as fantastic literature, popular astronomy, grand opera, positivism, utopian socialism, and the Revolution of 1848. He shows that those who attempted to fuse organicism and mechanism in various ways, including Alexander von Humboldt and Auguste Comte, charted a road not taken that resonates today.

Essential reading for historians of science, intellectual and cultural historians of Europe, and literary and art historians, The Romantic Machine is poised to profoundly alter our understanding of the scientific and cultural landscape of the early nineteenth century.

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In the years immediately following Napoleon’s defeat, French thinkers in all fields set their minds to the problem of how to recover from the long upheavals that had been set into motion by the French Revolution. Many challenged the Enlightenment’s emphasis on mechanics and questioned the rising power of machines, seeking a return to t...

John Tresch is associate professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:472 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:November 27, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022621480X

ISBN - 13:9780226214801

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Table of Contents

Preface: Absolute and In-between
1 Introduction: Mechanical Romanticism

PART 1 * DEVICES OF COSMIC UNITY
2 Ampère’s Experiments: Contours of a Cosmic Substance
3 Humboldt’s Instruments: Even the Tools Will Be Free
4 Arago’s Daguerreotype: The Labor Theory of Knowledge

PART 2 * SPECTACLES OF CREATION AND METAMORPHOSIS
5 The Devil’s Opera: Fantastic Physiospiritualism
6 Monsters, Machine-Men, Magicians: The Automaton in the Garden

PART 3 * ENGINEERS OF ARTIFICIAL PARADISES
7 Saint-Simonian Engines: Love and Conversions
8 Leroux’s Pianotype: The Organogenesis of Humanity
9 Comte’s Calendar: From Infinite Universe to Closed World

10 Conclusion: Afterlives of the Romantic Machine

Acknowledgments
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“With The Romantic Machine, John Tresch fulfills the goal of most recent history of science: to show that when you follow scientific achievements you end up describing a whole culture, including its literature and arts. By proposing a new interpretation of post-Napoleonic Paris’s material culture, Tresch shows the fecundity of his notion of cosmogram as the foundation of a different historical anthropology, one that includes science and technology and is not led by any teleology toward ‘modernity.’ On the contrary, by reinterpreting romanticism, he shows how much we could learn from this early nineteenth century period for understanding our own contradictory cosmograms today.”