Modernity and Autobiography in Nineteenth-Century America

Literary Representations of Communication and Transportation Technologies

  • James E. Dobson

Table of contents

About this book


This book examines temporal and formal disruptions found in American autobiographical narratives produced during the end of the nineteenth century. It argues that disruptions were primarily the result of encounters with new communication and transportation technologies. Through readings of major autobiographical works of the period, James E. Dobson argues that the range of affective responses to writing, communicating, and traveling at increasing speed and distance were registered in this literature’s formal innovation. These autobiographical works, Dobson claims, complicate our understanding of the lived experience of time, temporality, and existing accounts of periodization. This study first examines the competing views of space and time in the nineteenth century and then moves to examine how high-speed train travel altered American literary regionalism, the region, and history. Later chapters examine two narratives of failed homecoming that are deeply ambivalent about modernity and technology, Henry James’s The American Scene and Theodore Dreiser’s A Hoosier Holiday, before a reading of the telephone network as a metaphor for historiography and autobiography in Henry Adams’s The Education of Henry Adams.


life-writing travel writing travel memoir neurological modernity American modernity crisis affect theory Henry James Theodore Dreiser The Autobiography of Mark Twain Phenomenology and autobiography Railroad travel and space-time compression spatial distancing in "Rip Van Winkle" modernity, alienation, and Henry James' The American Scene temporal confusion and A Hoosier Holiday the effect of the telephone on the self modern technology and the fin-de-siècle autobiography The Education and Henry Adams Henry Adams' views on historiography Railroads, telephones, and 19th-century American autobiography American hotel culture and alienation

Authors and affiliations

  • James E. Dobson
    • 1
  1. 1.Dartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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