Networks of Improvement: Literature, Bodies, and Machines in the Industrial Revolution (Hardcover)

Networks of Improvement: Literature, Bodies, and Machines in the Industrial Revolution By Professor Jon Mee Cover Image

Networks of Improvement: Literature, Bodies, and Machines in the Industrial Revolution (Hardcover)


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A new literary-cultural history of the Industrial Revolution in Britain from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries.

Working against the stubbornly persistent image of “dark satanic mills,” in many ways so characteristic of literary Romanticism, Jon Mee provides a fresh, revisionary account of the Industrial Revolution as a story of unintended consequences. In Networks of Improvement, Mee reads a wide range of texts—economic, medical, and more conventionally “literary”—with a focus on their circulation through networks and institutions. Mee shows how a project of enlightened liberal reform articulated in Britain’s emerging manufacturing towns led to unexpectedly coercive forms of machine productivity, a pattern that might be seen repeating in the digital technologies of our own time. Instead of treating the Industrial Revolution as Romanticism’s “other,” Mee shows how writing, practices, and institutions emanating from these industrial towns developed a new kind of knowledge economy, one where local literary and philosophical societies served as important transmission hubs for the circulation of knowledge.
Jon Mee is professor in the Department of English and Related Literatures at the University of York, where he is also affiliated with the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies. He is the author of five books, including Print, Publicity, and Popular Radicalism in the 1790s: The Laurel of Liberty and Conversable Worlds: Literature, Contention, and Community, 1762 to 1830.
Product Details ISBN: 9780226828374
ISBN-10: 0226828379
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: October 10th, 2023
Pages: 288
Language: English
“Richly archival and powerful in its conceptions, Mee’s Networks of Improvement boldly goes where few literary historians have been before, into the heartlands of industrializing Britain for a magisterially orchestrated and methodologically groundbreaking study. Mee has given us a picture of British intellectual and social relationships that will stand unmatched for a long time to come.”
— Jon Klancher, Carnegie Mellon University

“Mee offers a sophisticated account of reading as a social practice central to the circulation of knowledge, both grand and granular, responsive to large questions with local particularities. Networks of Improvement is comprehensive, clearly written, and carefully organized.”
— Jonathan Sachs, Concordia University