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Mechanism and Meaning: British Natural Theology and the Literature of Technology, 1820-1840

Salvey, Courtney (2014) Mechanism and Meaning: British Natural Theology and the Literature of Technology, 1820-1840. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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As Carlyle recognized—and Arnold deplored—the nineteenth century was the ‘Age of Machinery’. Increasingly ubiquitous physical things, machines were also increasingly important cultural objects. In this project, I track how the meanings of machines were constructed by an emergent ‘literature of technology’ and ask what cultural work those meanings accomplished. From popular expositions of steam engines to mechanics textbooks to industrial travel narratives to histories of technology, the material, literary, and generic forms of these texts constructed the ‘machine’ as an intelligible object of public culture, as part of nature, as passive servant to human agents, and as the product of complex development. The cultural impact of such significances reverberated beyond debates on technology to shape seemingly irrelevant discourses: these meanings were harnessed by mechanical metaphors to do work in other cultural domains from poetics to political economy to religion. As a case study, I trace how each of these meanings supported or challenged the plausibility of natural theology in the 1830s, a religious discourse built on an analogy between machines and natural objects. Drawing on often-read texts like Babbage’s 'On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures' and Ure’s 'Philosophy of Manufactures' and lesser-read texts like the Bridgewater Treatises, Lardner’s 'The Steam Engine', Head’s 'A Home Tour through the Manufacturing Districts', and Whewell’s 'Mechanics of Engineering', this project ultimately argues that the way technology is talked about matters.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Prickett, Stephen
Thesis advisor: Cregan-Reid, Vybarr
Uncontrolled keywords: Nineteenth Century, British Literature, Natural Theology, Literature of Technology, Mechanical Metaphor
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2015 01:00 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 14:19 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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