By Jason Puskar

ISBN-10: 0804775354

ISBN-13: 9780804775359

This publication argues that language and literature actively produced likelihood within the past due 19th and early 20th centuries by way of categorizing accidents and losses as blameless of layout. vehicle collisions and occupational accidents turned "car injuries" and "industrial accidents." throughout the post-Civil battle interval of racial, ethnic, and class-based hostility, likelihood used to be an summary enemy opposed to which society may unite. by way 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 this is 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 coverage, which had lengthy hired twist of fate narratives to form its personal "mutual society." Accident Society finds the level to which American collectivity has depended—and maintains to depend—on the literary construction of chance.

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Extra info for Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance

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39 However, Dewey goes on to argue that chance is also a wordformula we use to account for experiences that fit poorly with our expectations, a claim aimed squarely at Peirce’s own realist theory of chance. , that if we knew more about the occurrence we should see it necessitated by its conditions. ”40 Chance is thus not a name for law misapprehended, nor for a real antilaw scrambling the universe from within, but a name we give to a certain vagueness in our own plans and expectations. “Conditions are neither accidental nor necessary, but simply constituting elements,” Dewey says.

Behrman in wheat at the end of Frank Norris’s The Octopus: A California Story (1904), for instance, functions as a crude doom machine that actually figures forth chance’s opposite, rational, or even moral necessity. In most cases, however, literary naturalism tends to resist this kind of transparent moralizing, and if chance is part of the equation, and it frequently is, it tends to prefigure the obscure workings of a vast and overpowering universe of force. But as a result, it can be quite difficult to tell whether chance in any given naturalist novel is ontological chance, a real force disrupting the universe from within, or whether it is merely a name for human ignorance of entirely deterministic laws.

Insurance is the most systematic and institutionally powerful of the chance collectives addressed in the following pages, but it is shadowed by many others that are more informal, improvisational, temporary, or even theoretical. Howells’s ethic of mutual complicity, Crane’s egalitarian chaos, and Peirce’s community of scientific inquirers are all, in different ways, organized around the looming threat of chance. For Howells, insurance was such a clear example of these dynamics that he modeled a broader social theory upon it.

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


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