The mechanic muse
One of America's most celebrated critics here brings his customary wit and erudition to bear on a particularly provocative theme: the response of literary Modernism to a changing environment wrought by technology. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Hugh Kenner, observes, technology "tended to engulf people gradually, coercing behavior they were not aware of." The Modernist writers were sensitive to technological change, however, and throughout their works are reflections of this fact. Kenner shows, for example, how Eliot's lines "One thinks of all the hands/That are raising dingy shades/In a thousand furnished rooms" suggest the advent of the alarm clock and, beyond that, what the clocks enabled: "the new world of the commuter, in which a principal event was waking up in the morning under the obligation to get yourself somewhere else, and arrive there on time . In fascinating examinations of Pound, Joyce, and Beckett, in addition to Eliot, Kenner looks at how inventions as various as the linotype, the typewriter, the subway, and the computer altered the way the world was viewed and depicted. Whether discussing Joyce's acute awareness of the nuances of typesetting or Beckett's experiments with a "proto-computer-language," Kenner consistently illuminates in fresh new ways the works of these authors and offers, almost incidentally, a wealth of anecdotes and asides that will delight the general reader and the literary specialist alike.
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