19th Century Literature and Technology

This module analyses how Romantic and early Victorian writers and thinkers explored the promise and threat of technological innovation. From the Romantic valorisation of a pre-technological state of nature through to the early Marxian attempt to define the human as a tool-using animal, we will examine how 19th century writers and thinkers analysed the changing nature of the relation between the human and the technological. What are the opportunities and dangers posed by technology? How do thinkers as diverse as Rousseau, Wordsworth, Carlyle and Marx respond to them? To what extent does technology become something that is not merely indispensable to every aspect of 19th century life but intrinsic to the definition of human being as such? In this course, we will examine a range of literary, philosophical and historical accounts of 19th century technology and place them in the context of the history of technology more generally.