Communication in Transition: Telecommunication Technology in British and American Literature 1880–1913
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
LeeAnne M. Richardson
In the nineteenth century new modes of communication created a wide variety of problems and concerns for their users. In addition to simple cases of mistaken identity and missed messages, telecommunications made possible previously inconceivable feats of instantaneous distance communications, which caused in some users crises of place and person as well as confusion and/or interruption in their understanding of location, distance, and even embodiment. These concerns are visible across texts and genres, appearing in novels, short stories, mystical narratives, and journalism. Moreover, as the telegram and telephone became more prevalent, authors also employed telecommunications within their texts as indications of character types and stereotypes. Combined, these elements helped to generate an unprecedented sphere of intrigue and concern around telecommunication and invention. I argue that understanding turn-of-the-century telecommunications is critical because of its role in the era’s historic sociological changes and how literature displays that relationship. In addition, this project shows how these technologies differ from the other developments of the time, evidenced by instantaneous (and in the case of the telephone, voiced but faceless) communication causing feelings of disembodiment and displacement for users and the birth of concerns over disruption, information overload, and miscommunication. Ultimately, this project will show that the use of telecommunications in the fiction is symbolic of major socio-historic changes taking place at the turn of the century and that the technology itself created many changes, including individuals’ conceptions of time, space, and place.
Keel, Sara, "Communication in Transition: Telecommunication Technology in British and American Literature 1880–1913." Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2022.
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