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

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By Jason Puskar

This booklet argues that language and literature actively produced probability within the past due 19th and early 20th centuries by means of categorizing accidents and losses as blameless of layout. car collisions and occupational accidents turned "car injuries" and "industrial accidents." through the post-Civil struggle interval of racial, ethnic, and class-based hostility, probability was once an summary enemy opposed to which society could unite. by way of generating probability, 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 hooked up now not with the aggressive individualism of the Gilded Age, yet with very important revolutionary and social democratic reforms, together with advancements in assurance, which had lengthy hired coincidence narratives to form its personal "mutual society." Accident Society unearths the level to which American collectivity has depended—and maintains to depend—on the literary creation of chance.

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March sounds like those nineteenth-century ministers who refused to put lightning rods on church steeples, because doing so might defy Providence. Although that kind of imprudent piety was rare by 1890, the lingering sense that some accidents are sacred signs that should not be questioned, let alone thwarted, reemerges in March’s crude attempt to distinguish providential chance from the human-made variety. When accidents are neither controlled by identifiable and culpable agents nor surrendered to the jurisdiction of a superintending deity, they lodge ineradicably in precisely those social and economic dynamics that March detests as secondary, human made, or artificial.

The remaining four went to the gallows on the morning November 11, 1887. This show trial is widely regarded as one of the most scandalous injustices in American legal history, for in the throes of the anti-red hysteria that gripped Chicago in the summer of 1886, few voices resisted the inexorable march to the gallows or opposed convictions based on little more than guilt by association. 4 But from that date, critics have long recognized a clear shift of emphasis in his work, as Annie Kilburn (1888) and then A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890) took a greater interest in the working class, more overtly addressed jarring social and economic changes, and more openly engaged, without exactly embracing, the appeal of socialism.

So while technical and statistical methods certainly exerted immense influence over social structures and taxonomies, to say nothing of large-scale political movements and institutions, we ignore a crucial stage of that process if we exclude equally important qualitative and literary developments, which produced a concept of chance well suited to sustaining viable modes of liberal interdependence. It is not just that mathematics and statistics  Introduction tame chance, then, but also that American writers defined a great deal of violence as chancy in order to legitimize new modes of socialization.

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