Download Machine and Metaphor: The Ethics of Language in American by Jennifer C. Cook PDF

By Jennifer C. Cook

American literary realism burgeoned in the course of a interval of large technological innovation. as the realists evinced not just a fascination with this new expertise but additionally an ethos that turns out to align itself with technological know-how, many have paired the 2 fields quite unproblematically. yet this publication demonstrates that many realist writers, from Mark Twain to Stephen Crane, Charles W. Chesnutt to Edith Wharton, felt loads of anxiousness in regards to the creation of latest applied sciences – accurately on the the most important intersection of ethics and language. For those writers, the verbal exchange revolution was once a troubling phenomenon, not just due to the ways that the hot machines had replaced and elevated the flow of language yet, extra pointedly, due to the ways that language itself had successfully develop into a laptop: a automobile perpetuating a few of society’s so much pernicious clich?s and stereotypes – really stereotypes of race – in unthinking new release. This paintings takes an in depth examine how the realists attempted to forge a moral place among the 2 poles of technology and sentimentality, trying to create an alternate mode of speech that, warding off the seize of codifying generation, might let moral motion.

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Additional resources for Machine and Metaphor: The Ethics of Language in American Realism (Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory)

Sample text

But Twain uses Jim’s exemplary behavior to subvert racial stereotypes in another way as well; by placing it in juxtaposition with the language that continually denies Jim the humanity he clearly demonstrates. The novel is replete with these instances (the use of the word “nigger” alone is legion), but, significantly, Twain does not abandon even the evasion episode without making this point. He tellingly includes commentary by the doctor who tends Tom’s bullet wound. On the surface, this is a scene in which the doctor tries to defend Jim by telling his captors that he “never see a nigger that was a better nuss or faithfuller, and yet he was resking his freedom to do it” (353).

It provides ample evidence to critics of the novel that Twain does not use the word in a callous or casual display of his own racism, but rather as a critical tool to expose the truth about the “hightoned gentleman” who did use the term. But, as David L. Smith and others have suggested, there is more than mere lingual accuracy at stake. Twain’s continual use of the term exposes the continuing reduction of Afro-Americans to a less-than-human status; it is another lingual justification for their treatment of blacks.

This is truly the pernicious nature of humbug talky-talk: the damage done to one’s judgment, without which man might as well be a machine. Twain sees this damage as nothing short of catastrophic, and emphasizes its dangerous potential throughout the novel through relentless eruptions of violence. The evasion chapters are no exception, again demonstrating that Twain had not retreated from the seriousness of his central themes. 38 Machine and Metaphor Following Tom’s lead, Huck seems at first as unaware of the true potential for danger as he was when he took the oath for the Band of Robbers.

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