Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production by Jason Puskar

By Jason Puskar

This publication argues that language and literature actively produced likelihood within the past due 19th and early 20th centuries through categorizing accidents and losses as blameless of layout. car collisions and occupational accidents turned "car injuries" and "industrial accidents." throughout the post-Civil struggle interval of racial, ethnic, and class-based hostility, probability was once an summary enemy opposed to which society may possibly unite. by means of generating likelihood, novels by way of William Dean Howells, Stephen Crane, Anna Katharine eco-friendly, Edith Wharton, Theodore Dreiser, and James Cain documented and helped determine new modes of collective interdependence. probability here's attached no longer with the aggressive individualism of the Gilded Age, yet with vital revolutionary and social democratic reforms, together with advancements in coverage, which had lengthy hired coincidence narratives to form its personal "mutual society." Accident Society finds the level to which American collectivity has depended—and keeps to depend—on the literary construction of chance.

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In what amounts to a dissent against traditional liberal theories of free will and self-control, Crane links the accurate execution of one’s intentions with imperial violence and links random, aimless shooting to a preferable mode of ruthless egalitarianism. Chapter 3 addresses pragmatism directly and at length, through a consideration of two writers who trust chance to aid their investigations, the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce and the best-selling detective novelist Anna Katharine Green.

Even though Charles Dickens’s outrageous social coincidences may reflect the unpredictability of modern  The Insurance of the Real social systems, they also have centripetal and integrative tendencies that suggest higher levels of design. When, in Oliver Twist (1861), the orphan’s benefactor turns out to be closely connected to his lost relatives, the reunion of families and friends acts as a thematic counterpart to the formal integration of multiple plots, which the novel’s conclusion braids together.

And because insurance has no pretension to reform society, merely to compensate for allegedly unpreventable losses, realism could surrender some of its own ambition to exert managerial control over society and instead embrace a looser policy of tending to, without necessarily alleviating, the injuries and losses at the heart of modern life.  The Insurance of the Real Alongside the practical, compensatory functions of insurance, the industry exercised a more subtle but equally profound influence on Americans’ consciousness of chance.

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