2007-08 MM 18th- and 19th-Century Futures

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Ich frage mich, ob wir Mercier nicht auf zwei Sitzungen einschränken sollten, um für Last Man etwas mehr Platz zu kriegen. Feedback ist willkommen. Gruß, --Olaf Simons 11:29, 23 November 2007 (CET)

The twentieth century brought forth a wave of books and movies dealing with the future. "Science fiction" reads the label that detects the sciences as the primary source of inspiration shaping this production.

The seminar will go back to early fictions of times to come. The sciences, this will be an immediate result, did not motivate the early authors. Samuel Madden, writing in 1733, could hardly imagine a future marked by entirely different technologies. New mental states are of interest to Sebastien Mercier, the author of the 1770s. A gloomy catastrophe becomes the scenario of Mary Shelley's Last Man in 1828. Late 19th century authors - like Edward Bellamy and H. G. Wells - offer the futures we have become used to.

We will read the 18th- and 19th-century titles mentioned with an interest in the cultures they reflect. The future - this will be one of the premises of this seminar - is no natural thing to consider. It is rather a ground of debate developing its own logic with the histories we came to write.

Seminar work will focus on the texts listed bellow. How do these titles compare with 20th-century science fiction? How far are they influenced by ideas of (technological) progress? To what extend did they need comparable histories of the past to become plausible? How do other considerations of the future from astrology to religion compare to the new fictional production developing with these texts?

Oct 25 2007: Brainstorming

How did the future - how did the past develop - a broad survey. Encouragement: Use the seminar to develop research projects of your own interest - research projects to be dealt with with the help of EEBO, ECCO, and MOME. The letter databases allow word searches.

Nov 1, 2007: Samuel Madden, Memoirs of the 20th Century (1733)

  • William Salmon, The London almanack for the year of our Lord 1694 (1694). EEBO
Read chapter XIII, the "Explanation of the Hieroglyphs". How is the interest in the future structured? What is more and what is less interesting?
  • Samuel Madden, Memoirs of the Twentieth Century (1733). ECCO
Take a look through title page and dedication, read the preface and the first letter. You may either read the ECCO online edition or download the pdf I'll put on our server. I shall try to provide a text edition in cooperation with the Druckzentrum.

Nov 8, 2007: Samuel Madden, Memoirs of the 20th Century (1733)

We split the book into portions of 70 pages:

  • 1-70 Jens
  • 71-140 Jenna
  • 141-210 Lindsay
  • 211-280 Anastasia
  • 281-350 Johanna
  • 351-420 Olaf Simons
  • I'll read the rest if necessary on my journey, am, however, happy if participants who did not turn up, take their own portions. You may use the following page as a site on which we can gather information. It would be interesting to get a notion of what happens in this book (not much I feel), it will be especially interesting to get a list of interesting pages - where does he speak about "arts and sciences" of the future - this is what he promised. What does he tell about the political situation? best, --Olaf Simons 15:27, 1 November 2007 (CET)

Nov 15, 2007: Samuel Madden, Memoirs of the 20th Century (1733)

We spoke about different topics and discussed the genre question. Delarivier Manley's New Atalantis (1709) and her Memoirs of Europe (1710) can be considered as closely related. The idea of a collection of letters was not new - political journals used similar ploys. We were not quite sure how far Madden managed to write an epistolary novel - a novel with a distinct plot line and with correspondents developing distinct character features - Aphra Behn's Love Letters (1684-1687) [1] could have presented a model, yet they did not.

We finally decided to take a look at the individual protagonists - do they have individual character features? do they develop? do they tell developing stories. The Candidates are:

I moved all the information we have gathered to Samuel Madden, Memoirs of the Twentieth Century (1733)

Jenna versuchte den Herrn der Mondkanäle wiederzufinden - es handelt sich dabei um Giovanni Schiaparelli: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Schiaparelli.

Nov 22, 2007: Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Memoirs of the year two thousand five hundred (1771)

  • Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Memoirs of the year two thousand five hundred. [1771] translated from the French by W. Hooper (London: G. Robinson, 1772). ECCO

We decided to read up to p.115. Gute Hintergrundlektüre zum letzten Kapitel: Cesare Beccaria, Von Verbrechen und Strafen [orig. Dei delitti e delle pene] (1764) sowie Michel Foucault Überwachen und Strafen: Die Geburt des Gefängnisses [orig. Surveiller et punir] (1975)

Nov 29, 2007: Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Memoirs of the year two thousand five hundred (1771)

Mercier's Memoirs of the Year Two Thousand Five Hundred and Foucault's Überwachen und Strafen

In order to make most of our analysis of Mercier's novel we have to keep in mind that it is set in a time when cruel corporal punishment was common practice. However this practice was being questioned by contemporaries and the public spectacle of execution was eventually abolished at the end of the 18th century (Foucault p. 15). Capital punishment was still in use, but took other forms and gradually changed from a display of power to a means of correcting social dissenters. This is only one example of the transformation the penal and civil law underwent when the novel Memoirs of the Year Two Thousand Five Hundred was published (1771 in France and 1772 in London). This leads us to the question how this social, philosophical and judicial change is reflected in the text, which new perspectives and solutions are presented and how this is done by the author. Generally we have to consider three level for our analysis: The historic reality of the 1770s, the fictional reality of the future and our own reality that lets us compare the author's vision with the actual development of society.

Historically we are in the age of enlightenment that arguably began in the late 17th century and ended at the end of the 18th century. The concept of reason was the central idea of this intellectual movement which considered reason to be the preferred basis of authority: In a just society it is in the interest of every individual to act morally (i. e. according to that society's rules). This concept should prove itself to be much more economic, efficient and humane than the vulgar display of power intended to intimidate potential wrongdoers. However it also introduced extensive observation and a closely defined space of social norms which greatly affected the self-perception and social behaviour of every individual within a society. Following this new approach, violation of the law constitutes an act against society itself and accordingly the trespasser becomes a public enemy. Responsibility is thus shifted from the governmental authorities to every member of the state who is now expected to govern himself.

Naturally, a pre-condition for this concept to work is the internalization of a collective moral. This idea greatly influenced how societies were perceived, how governmental institutions defined their scope of functions and how they would archive certain goals (maintain public order, law enforcement, punishments, etc.).

In the chapters ten (The Man with a mask, p. 58-63) and sixteen (Execution of a criminal, p. 97-116) Mercier describes two crimes and how an utopian (future) society deals with them: Writing an immoral ("bad", Mercier p. 58) book and murder.

Chap. 10: The Man with a Mask (p. 58-63)

  • Crime: The culprit is guilty of writing a book containing "dangerous principles", which are "inconsistent with sound morality, that universal morality which speaks to every heart" (Mercier p. 58).
  • The author has been "judged" by the public: "The public voice is the sole judge in these cases (p. 59)". The reader is not given details of the exact decision-making process though.
  • Punishment:
    • The author has to wear a mask.
    • He is visited daily by two "worthy" (Mercier p. 58) citizens, who argue with him and try to convince him of his errors. Once he is convinced and retracts his text he is re-established.
  • The process is described as humane and free of censorship. Everyone is free to think and write what he wants, but since a "universal" moral has been found, all deviant ethic models consequently must be inferior and wrong and as such cannot be tolerated.
  • In the novel those who deviate from the allegedly perfect rules of society are hardly punished, instead a great effort is made to correct their behaviour and lead them back to the right path. The debate takes place at the delinquent's home and is not a public spectacle. No corporal punishment is administered.
  • The mask is an instrument of social control and a sign of unsocial behaviour that stigmatizes the wearer. It could possibly be compared with more severe forms of historic stigmatizations like brandings, mutilations, the pillory etc. which were in use in the 1770s. While it serves the same purpose as those, it is removable and will not leave a trace when the delinquent's honour is restored.

Chap. 16: Execution of a Criminal (p. 97-116)

  • Crime: The convict has murdered another man and therefore is sentenced to death. It has been thirty years since the last murder and the loss of the murderer's victim as well as the loss of the convict's life are rare and tragic events (Mercier p. 97).
  • The citizens of the future pride themselves on their "wise and humane" laws (Mercier p. 113), which are "calculated more for reformation than for chastisement". To archive this goal the "refractory" elements of society are isolated and brought "to repentance". Crime is understood as a disease that must be cured (corrected), not punished. However on page 99 the victim's "bloody corpse" cries for "vengeance".
  • The public mourns the death of both men. While everyone is aware of the "fiery disposition" (Mercier p. 98) of the killer, his personality and history do not ease his punishment. The idea of extenuating circumstances is not yet introduced and even the king, who would be able to pardon the victim, thinks his death will set an example for others (Mercier p. 110).
  • In contrast to the above point Foucault describes how those "loopholes" (like pardons) were gradually closed as the law was depersonalised:
    • In the 1770s an individual's status and reputation determined how he was judged. Also society was split into several smaller units each with their own economy of power, privileges, or in the case of the poor, tolerated deviant behaviour (Foucault, p. 105).
    • In the novel and in the 1770s, punishment is absolute (only the crime is considered) but the convict can be pardoned while in our time punishment is inevitable but relative (the circumstances are considered).
  • In the novel soldiers are mentioned to "keep off the multitude". This seems rather unnecessary if everyone's mourning the convict. In the 1770s the spectators took part in the execution by cursing or harming the convict (or in some cases sympathizing with him) while he was on his way to the place of execution, until he was in the hands of the executioners who presented the greater authority of the state. In order to deny the unpredictable public the privilege of killing the convict before the state made use of its right to do so, he had to be protected.
  • The capital punishment was a demonstration of power: By harming or killing the condemned men in public the government proofed to be more powerful (and cruel) than those who broke the law. In the novel punishment is still public, but it is not a spectacle or display of power any more. Rather it seems like a lesson in morality. The chain, once a symbol of stately power (Foucault, p. 131), now is the same as one's reason, as everyone is "chained" to their ratio. Page 102: "Why should he be loaded with chains when he freely delivers himself up to death?"
  • In the novel the murderer dies as painlessly as possible while he could be cruelly tortured in the 1770s before he died. Nowadays the life sentence has replaced capital punishment in most Western countries.

Notes: Dealing with a plague

Foucault also mentions how citizens dealt with a plague (Foucault, p. 251-256):

  • Initially the sick (lepers, etc.) were cast out of the city. People would only distinguish between "pure" (healthy) and "polluted" (the sick). There were hardly any measures to prevent further infections.
  • Gradually a complex system was invented, where the threatened city was divided into smaller areas by an official. Citizens were forbidden to leave their homes in order to avoid contact with each other and spread the disease, so interaction was reduced to a minimum. Supervisors were deployed to check the houses and their inhabitants and report back to a central authority. This system is much more sophisticated and differentiated as it does not simply expel sick individuals but rather keeps a close eye on people and limits their mobility. This model illustrates how power structures in modern societies were refined, optimized and deindividualized.
  • The arbitrariness and chaos of the plague was countered with a supervised and ordered society.

The following edition was used: Foucault, Michel: Überwachen und Strafen. Die Geburt des Gefängnisses, 1st Ed., Frankfurt am Main 1994.

Dec 6, 2007: Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826)

For next week we are supposed to read volume one of The Last Man and think about how Mary Shelley's future is different from the futures we have discussed so far.

Dec 13, 2007: Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826)

Collective information on Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826)

Dec 20, 2007: Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826)

Jan 10, 2007: Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826)

Jan 17, 2008: Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward from 2000 to 1887 (1888)

Jan 24, 2008: Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward from 2000 to 1887 (1888)

I found a good online edition in English of Engels's Principles of Communism (1847), in case anyone is interested. --Lindsay 19:34, 20 January 2008 (CET)

Jan 31, 2008: H. G. Wells, Time Machine (1895)

Feb 6, 2008: H. G. Wells, Time Machine (1895)

Bibliography of titles which explore the future

We will take a closer look at Madden (1731), Mercier (1771), Shelley (1828), Bellamy (1888) and Wells (1895) - here a full list of which I do not know, how far it can be extended. Everyone can do.

  • 1644: [Cheynell, Francis, 1608-1665,] Aulicus his dream, of the Kings sudden comming to London (London : [s.n.], Printed, Ann. Dom. 1644. EEBO
  • 1683: Browne, Thomas, Sir (1605-1682), "A Prophecy Concerning the future state of several Nations," in Certain Miscellany Tracts (London: Charles Mearn, 1683), tract XII. EEBO
  • 1733: Samuel Madden, Memoirs of the 20th cenury. London, 1731. ECCO
  • 1738: Vieyra, Antonio, Historia de lo futuro (Madrid: Antonio Sanz, 1738).
  • 1765: The reign of George VI. (London: printed for W. Nicholl, 1763), xxi,[1],192p.; 12° [ECCO: "An imaginary history of England at the beginning of the 20th century. With a half-title."] ECCO
  • 1769: Private letters from an American in England to his friends in America (London: printed for J. Almon, 1769), [6],163,[5]p.; 8°. [ECCO: "A satire on the social and political life of England. Half-title: 'Letters from an American in England to his friends in America.' - With five final pages of advertisements."] ECCO
    • 1781: Anticipation, or the voyage of an American to England, in the year 1899, in a series of letters, humorously describing the supposed situation of this kingdom at that period (London: printed for W. Lane, 1781), [4],163,[1]p.; 8°. [I. F. Clarke (1972): Britain in decline: its harbours are empty, religion degenerate, great buildings in ruins. This has been caused by Scottish immigrants, idle bishops, fanatical Methodists.) ECCO
  • 1771: Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Memoirs of the year two thousand five hundred. [1771] translated from the French by W. Hooper (London: G. Robinson, 1772). ECCO
  • 1771: "Antonius." Futurist article in Lloyd's Evening Post, 25-28 November 1771.
  • 1775: Edward Wigglesworth (1732-1794), Calculations on American population, with a table for estimating the annual increase of inhabitants in the British colonies (Boston: Printed and sold by John Boyle in Marlboro'-Street, MDCCLXXV), 24p.; 8°. ECCO
  • 1780: [Sir Herbert Croft (1751-1816),] The abbey of Kilkhampton; or, monumental records for the year 1980. faithfully transcribed from the original inscriptions (London: printed for G. Kearsly, 1780), [4],75,[1]p.; 4° [ECCO: "Anonymous. By Sir Herbert Croft. A satirical collection of epitaphs on prominent persons of the period."] ECCO
  • 1788: [Sir Herbert Croft (1751-1816),] The wreck of Westminster Abbey, alias the year two thousand, alias the ordeal of sepulchral candour; being a selection from the monumental records of the most conspicuous personages (London: printed for Charles Stalker, MMI [i.e. 1788?]), [4],40p.; 4° In the same vein as Croft's 1780 publication. ECCO
  • 1790 Restif de la Bretonne, L'An 2000, ou la régénération (1790).
  • 1794: [Samuel Osgood (1748-1813)?] Remarks on the Book of Daniel, and on the Revelations (New-York: Printed at Greenleaf’s press, April 19, A.D. 1794), [2],503,[1]p.; 8° ECCO
  • 1795: Alexander Fraser (1749-1802), A key to the prophecies of the Old & New Testament, which are not yet accomplished (Edinburgh: printed for Bell & Bradfute; and G. G. & J. Robinson, London, 1795), xii,474,[2]p.; 8° Biblical prophecies leading into the 20th century. ECCO
  • 1805: Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville. Le dernier homme (1805). [I. F. Clarke (1972): "After centuries of progress, the world comes to an end."]
    • 1806: The last man; or, Omegarus and Syderia. A romance in futurity, 2 vols. (Printed for R. Dutton), 424 pp. [An unacknowledged translation].
  • 1807: Cassandra Non-Reveur (pseud.), The red book; or, the government of Francis the First, Emperor of the English ... a dream (J.J. Stockdale, 1807), 76 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "An attack on Sir Francls Burdett; the French Revolution repeats itself in Britain."]
  • 1810: Julius von Voß, Ini : Ein Roman aus d. 21. Jahrhundert (Berlin, Amelang, 1810) Reprint: Fürth/Saar: Bleymehl, 1966.
  • 1819: [Anonymous,] One thousand eight hundred and twenty nine; or, "Shall it be so?" (J.J. Stockdale, 1819), 36 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "An attack on the claims of Catholic Emancipation; in 1829 the Stuarts are restored by Papal bull."]
  • 1824: [Banim, J.,] Revelations of the dead-alive, (W. Sirnpkin, & R. Marshall, 1824), 376 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): A satire, placed in the year A.D. 2023 and aimed at writers of the Romantic period.]
  • 1826: The author of Frankenstein [i.e. Mary Shelley], The Last Man 3 vols. (London: H. Colburn, 1826), xi, 1038 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "Begins with the abdication of the last British monarch and ends with a plague that wipes out most of Europe.] Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Morton D. Paley. (Oxford: OUP, 1998).
  • 1827: [Webb, J.,] The mummy! A Tale of the twenty-second century, 3 vols. (H. Colburn, 1827), viii, 951 p. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A Gothic romance set in the highly advanced world of A.D. 2130. The story is one of the earliest examples of science fiction.
  • 1828: Moresby, Lord C., A hundred years hence; or, the memoirs of Charles, Lord Moresby, written by himself (Longman/ Rees/ Orme, 1828) 210 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A tale of travel and romance in the advanced world of the twentieth century."]
  • 1831: [Anonymous,] Great Britain in 1841; or, the results of the Reform Bill (London: Roake & Varty, 1831), 21 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "An account of the horrors expected to follow on the Reform Bill."]
  • 1831: [Anonymous,] A leaf from the future history of England on the subject of reform in Parliament (London: Roake & Varty, 1831), 12 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "The evils of 'Radical Reform' demonstrated."]
  • 1837: [Williams, R.F.,] Eureka: a prophecy of the future. 3 vols. (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, 1873), 960p. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A German empire stretches from the Vistula to the Adriatic; Africa is a series of republics; and Britain is a forgotten land."]
  • 1838: R. P. (Walker, R.), Oxford in 1888: a fragmentary dream by a Sub-Utopian. Published from the original MS. by the editor, R.P. (H. Slatter, 1838) 70 pp. Map. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A description of the reformed Oxford of the future."]
  • 1845: [Anonymous,] 1945: a vision (F. & J. Rivington), 39 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "The nation learns to repent of its "faithless days" after a disastrous war."]
  • 1847: [Henningsen, C.] Sixty years hence, 3 vols. (T. Cautley Newby, 1847), 1070 pp. [A satire on the divisions in society.]
  • 1850: [Anonymous,] The Times, 333,379, 6th January, 1950 (1850). 4 pp. [One of several burlesque editions of The Times that appeared during the second half of the last century. This issue, like the issue of 1862, made mild fun of matters of general interest at the time.
  • 1850: Hovenden, R., A tract of future times; or, the reflections of posterity on the excitement, hypocrisy, and idolatry of the nineteenth century (C. Gilpin, 1850), 190 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A religious and moral lecture on the evils of the times."]
  • 1851: [Anonymous,] The last peer, 3 vols. (T. Cautley Newby, 1851), 1140 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "The development of machinery has reduced the demand for labour: decline of the aristocracy and the monarchy follows."]
  • 1851: [Anonymous,] History of the sudden and terrible invasion of England by the French in ... May, 1852 (T. Bosworth, 1851), 23 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A demonstration of the dangers of military unpreparedness; the French, under 'that little Corsican. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte', capture London.
  • 1857: [Anonymous,] Imaginary history of the next thirty years (Sampson Low, 1857). 72 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A series of forecasts: Australia declares her independence; Chinese missionary society established in London, etc."]
  • 1859: Lang, H., The air battle: a vision of the future (W. Perry, 1859). 112 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "Britain, now a backward country, is protected by the Black Saharans, the most powerful nation on earth.]
  • 1859: Penny, Mrs S.J., A dream of the day that must come (Wertheim, 1859), 58 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A moral fantasy about Christian duty and the universal judgement."]
  • 1862: [Anonymous,] The Times No. 55,567, 1962 (1862), 4 p. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A forecast of the days when the House of Ladies and the House of Peeresses rule Britain. The Thames at last a pure river; the International Exhibition covers fourteen and a half miles of ground."]
  • 1867: Mohoa [i.e. Fairburn, E.], The ships of Tarshish: being a sequel to Sue's Wandering Jew (Hall & Co., 1867), 104 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "A romance built round the construction of a new type of battleship."]
  • 1868: O'Neil. H., Two thousand years hence (Chapman & Hall [1868]), 351 pp. Illus. [I. F. Clarke (1972): "The consequences of the Reform Bill of 1867: 'the reins of government were transferred ... onto the hands of poverty and ignorance'".]
  • 1871: [Chesney, Sir G.T.,], The Battle of Dorking: reminiscences of a Volunteer (Blackwoods, 1871) 64 pp. [I. F. Clarke (1972): The Battle of Dorking episode is the most interesting example of pamphleteering in the last century. The original story, written when Chesney was president of the Royal Indian Civil Engineering College at Staines, was published anonymously in the May issue of Blackwood's Magazine, 1871. The story described a successful invasion of Britain by Prussia. The British forces are easily efeated, thanks to antiquated equipment and obsolete tactics. This demonstration of the need for Army reform caught the public attention at a moment of general nervousness; it caused such dismay that Gladstone felt it necessary to make a speech against its 'alarmism'. The number of pamphlets provoked by Chesney's story and the large number of foreign translations indicate the effectiveness of his ominous predictions."]
  • 1888: Edward Bellamy. Looking Backward from 2000 to 1887. 1888.
  • 1895: H. G. Wells. Time Machine. 1895.

Secondary Literature

  • Clarke, Ignatius Frederick, The Tale of the Future. London: The Library Association, 1961, 1972.
  • Franklin, H. Bruce, Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966.
  • Ash, Brian, Faces of the Future. London: Elek, 1975.
  • Morgan, Chris, The Shape of Futures Past: The Story of Prediction. Exeter, 1980.
  • Koselleck, Reinhart. Futures Past: The Semantics of Historical Time. Trans. Keith Tribe. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press, 1985.
  • Kline, George L. "'Present', 'Past', and 'Future' as Categoreal Terms, and the 'Fallacy of the Actual Future'." Review of Metaphysics, 40 (Dec. 1986): 215-35.
  • Writing the Future, ed. David Wood. London: Routledge, 1990.
    • Wood, David. "Editing the Future", p.1-10.
    • Bennington, Geoffrey. "Towards a Criticism of the Future," p.17-29.
    • Schmidt, Dennis J. "Circles—Hermeneutic and Otherwise: On Various Senses of the Future as 'Not Yet'," p.67-78.
    • Forrester, John. "'... A Perfect Likeness of the Past' (Freud): Dreaming of the Future," p.98-105.
  • Morson, Gary Saul, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time. New Haven: Yale UP, 1994.
  • Perkins, Maureen. Visions of the Future: Almanacs, Time, and Cultural Change 1775-1870. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.
  • Wood, David C. "Part 4. Time Beyond Deconstruction (6. The Philosophy of the Future)." In Wood, The Deconstruction of Time. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1989. Rpt. with a new preface by the author, 2001. 265-383.

On Samuel Madden

Utopian titles

  • 1627: Bacon, Francis, (1561-1626), New Atlantis. Utopian fantasy.