Download e-book for kindle: Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production by Jason Puskar

By Jason Puskar

ISBN-10: 0804775354

ISBN-13: 9780804775359

This e-book argues that language and literature actively produced probability within the overdue 19th and early 20th centuries by way of categorizing accidents and losses as blameless of layout. motor vehicle collisions and occupational accidents turned "car injuries" and "industrial accidents." throughout the post-Civil battle interval of racial, ethnic, and class-based hostility, likelihood used to be an summary enemy opposed to which society may well unite. by means of generating probability, novels by way of William Dean Howells, Stephen Crane, Anna Katharine eco-friendly, Edith Wharton, Theodore Dreiser, and James Cain documented and helped identify new modes of collective interdependence. likelihood here's hooked up no longer with the aggressive individualism of the Gilded Age, yet with vital innovative and social democratic reforms, together with advancements in assurance, which had lengthy hired coincidence narratives to form its personal "mutual society." Accident Society unearths the level to which American collectivity has depended—and maintains to depend—on the literary creation of chance.

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Extra info for Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance

Example text

As regularity and order came to be identified with deliberate contrivance, the “real” became linked to the opposite, the irregular and the uncontrolled. Period critics were partly aware that something of this sort was going on. ”20 But reading Howells’s “haphazard” narrative form as a failure of craft, as Matthews implies, is also a way of crediting him with conducting something like a random sample, artless, perhaps, but not skewed by any too pronounced attempt at artistry. The problem, however, is that Hazard is less haphazard than Matthews thinks, and perhaps even less than Howells intended.

On closer inspection, the leveling descriptions of Howells’s world of chance turn out to reveal tantalizing formal similarities between otherwise separate The Insurance of the Real  accidents and tightly integrated structural patterns that are antithetical to the nonnecessity of chance. Howells had occasionally disrupted the ends of previous novels with paroxysms of chance that undermined the narrative’s attempt at closure and highlighted the artificiality of that operation. The train derailment, misdelivered newspaper, and chance encounters at the end of A Modern Instance (1882), for example, bring the novel itself to a screeching halt in a way that can only register as outrageously contrived.

Bearing the imprint of Hartford, Connecticut, soon to be the insurance capital of the East, the illustration issued from the firm of Kellogg and Bulkeley, the president of which, William Henry Bulkeley, was the son of the first president of Hartford’s Aetna Life Insurance Company, Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley. Even as the illustration’s caption reminds readers about the practical need for prudence, it also reminds them about the practical need for insurance, given that fires cannot be eliminated entirely.

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Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance by Jason Puskar


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