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This title in other editions

Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray

by

Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"New technologies are often met with fear, suspicion, and superstition of medieval proportions. The benefits of scientific invention, even those now taken for granted in our everyday lives, were once passionately debated. This is the story of Dark Light, Linda Simon's fascinating history of the advent of electrification....[It] offers a compelling picture of a society dealing with immense technological change, and it reveals how attitudes toward medicine and science evolve or fade away." Anna Godberson, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A revelatory cultural history of electricity's introduction in the last half of the 19th century — and our surprisingly strong resistance to it

The modern world imagines that the invention of electricity was greeted with great enthusiasm. But in 1879, Americans reacted to the advent of electrification with suspicion and fear. Forty years after Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb, only 20 percent of American families had wired their homes. Meanwhile, electrotherapy emerged as a popular medical treatment for everything from depression to digestive problems. Why did Americans welcome electricity into their bodies even as they kept it from their homes? And what does their reaction to technological innovation then have to teach us about our reaction to it today?

In Dark Light, Linda Simon offers a vivid cultural history that delves into those questions, using newspapers, novels, and other primary sources. Tracing fifty years of technological transformation, from Morse's invention of the telegraph to Roentgen's discovery of X rays, she has created a revealing portrait of an anxious age.


CITATION:
"Readers drawn to technology's cultural history will be intrigued by Simon's eclectic work."
(Booklist)
CITATION:
"Simon does a brilliant job here chronicling the early and sometimes dark days of electricity."
(San Diego Union Tribune)
CITATION:
"An utterly idiosyncratic romp, a chronicle not of gizmos and inventors but of their effects on the public imagination."
(Newsday)
CITATION:
"Simon's fascinating story is resonant today."
(Philadelphia Inquirer)

Review:

"This, well, illuminating social history of the introduction of electric power in 19th-century America illustrates a thesis that has resonance today: that the introduction of any potentially transforming technology creates a tension between desirable changes in day-to-day life and the anxiety that follows any step into the unknown. In following that tension, Simon shows how the belief that electricity was a fundamental life force fostered various forms, many bizarre, of 'electrotherapy' in the service of sexual fulfillment, mental health and contact with the world of the dead — whom mesmerists of the day even believed could be reanimated with electricity. Simon is an English professor at Skidmore College and biographer of such literary figures as William James, and her literary background is both a strength and a weakness. She shows little interest in how electricity works, but she is quite deft at exploring through novels and short stories how 19th-century society viewed the promises and perceived dangers of a world filled with electrical devices. Unfortunately, Simon spends too much time on the mesmerists and not enough on the development of useful electrical inventions and their integration into common use. On the other hand, Morse's development of the telegraph and Edison's many inventions are stories that benefit from Simon's good eye for the intrigue, politicking and hucksterism that surrounded these innovations. Agent, Elaine Markson. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Linda Simon's social history of electricity is not for tech nerds. No dry scientific tome destined for a section of the library frequented by readers unlikely to find dates, it is in fact an utterly idiosyncratic romp, a poetical humanist's inquiry..." Newsday

Review:

"Simon...does a brilliant job here chronicling the early and sometimes dark days of electricity....But even more entertaining are the portions of the book that recount electric moments of achievement and disaster." San Diego Union-Tribune

Book News Annotation:

This is a cultural history of the advent of electricity in the second half of the 19th century. Simon (English, Skidmore College) examines how, despite the (rather fantastic) promises of electricity's promoters, Americans maintained a fear and distrust of bringing electric power into their homes, yet paradoxically seemed to accept electrotherapy as a scientifically-valid treatment for a host of ailments. She examines how beliefs rooted in vitalism, spiritualism, and science contributed to attitudes towards electricity and its connection to the human body and discusses manifestations of cultural anxiety centering on electricity.
Annotation 2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

The modern world imagines that the invention of electricity was greeted with great enthusiasm. But in 1879 Americans reacted to the advent of electrification with suspicion and fear. Forty years after Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb, only 20 percent of American families had wired their homes. Meanwhile, electrotherapy emerged as a popular medical treatment for everything from depression to digestive problems. Why did Americans welcome electricity into their bodies even as they kept it from their homes? And what does their reaction to technological innovation then have to teach us about our reaction to it today?

In Dark Light, Linda Simon offers the first cultural history that delves into those questions, using newspapers, novels, and other primary sources. Tracing fifty years of technological transformation, from Morse's invention of the telegraph to Roentgen's discovery of X-rays, she has created a revealing portrait of an anxious age.

Synopsis:

Praise for GENUINE REALITY: A Life of William James

"Compelling ..... James comes wonderfully alive. In Genuine Reality, you more than notice him; you become engaged in his struggles as if they were your own." -- The New York Times

"One of the distinctions of Linda Simon's well-written, well-paced biography is how much insight she gives us into James's family background. Reading her, one comes to understand just how much William had to contend with in his efforts to break free and go relatively sane. This well-crafted, comprehensive book is a real achievement." — Washington Post Book World


About the Author

LINDA SIMON is a professor of English at Skidmore College. She is the author of four biographies, including Genuine Reality:A Life of Henry James and The Biography of Alice B.Toklas. She lives in Saratoga Springs, NewYork.

Table of Contents

Introduction

PART I: Wonders

Working Great Mischief

Beneficence

Wilderness of Wires

Nerve Juice

Sparks

PART II: Cravings of the Heart

The Inconstant Battery

Haunted Brains

The Inscrutable Something

PART III: Electrostrikes

Live Wires

Magical Keys

Dark Light

Appreciation

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780151005864
Subtitle:
Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-ray
Author:
Simon, Linda
Publisher:
Mariner Books
Location:
Orlando
Subject:
History
Subject:
Public opinion
Subject:
Electricity
Subject:
Philosophy & Social Aspects
Subject:
United States - 19th Century
Subject:
Fear
Subject:
Electrification
Subject:
TEC056000
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series Volume:
no. 38/2002
Publication Date:
20050418
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Illustrations:
13 black-and-white illustrations with te
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Reference » Science Reference » Patents and Inventions
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » Technology

Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray Used Hardcover
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$8.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Harcourt - English 9780151005864 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This, well, illuminating social history of the introduction of electric power in 19th-century America illustrates a thesis that has resonance today: that the introduction of any potentially transforming technology creates a tension between desirable changes in day-to-day life and the anxiety that follows any step into the unknown. In following that tension, Simon shows how the belief that electricity was a fundamental life force fostered various forms, many bizarre, of 'electrotherapy' in the service of sexual fulfillment, mental health and contact with the world of the dead — whom mesmerists of the day even believed could be reanimated with electricity. Simon is an English professor at Skidmore College and biographer of such literary figures as William James, and her literary background is both a strength and a weakness. She shows little interest in how electricity works, but she is quite deft at exploring through novels and short stories how 19th-century society viewed the promises and perceived dangers of a world filled with electrical devices. Unfortunately, Simon spends too much time on the mesmerists and not enough on the development of useful electrical inventions and their integration into common use. On the other hand, Morse's development of the telegraph and Edison's many inventions are stories that benefit from Simon's good eye for the intrigue, politicking and hucksterism that surrounded these innovations. Agent, Elaine Markson. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "New technologies are often met with fear, suspicion, and superstition of medieval proportions. The benefits of scientific invention, even those now taken for granted in our everyday lives, were once passionately debated. This is the story of Dark Light, Linda Simon's fascinating history of the advent of electrification....[It] offers a compelling picture of a society dealing with immense technological change, and it reveals how attitudes toward medicine and science evolve or fade away." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "Linda Simon's social history of electricity is not for tech nerds. No dry scientific tome destined for a section of the library frequented by readers unlikely to find dates, it is in fact an utterly idiosyncratic romp, a poetical humanist's inquiry..."
"Review" by , "Simon...does a brilliant job here chronicling the early and sometimes dark days of electricity....But even more entertaining are the portions of the book that recount electric moments of achievement and disaster."
"Synopsis" by ,
The modern world imagines that the invention of electricity was greeted with great enthusiasm. But in 1879 Americans reacted to the advent of electrification with suspicion and fear. Forty years after Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb, only 20 percent of American families had wired their homes. Meanwhile, electrotherapy emerged as a popular medical treatment for everything from depression to digestive problems. Why did Americans welcome electricity into their bodies even as they kept it from their homes? And what does their reaction to technological innovation then have to teach us about our reaction to it today?

In Dark Light, Linda Simon offers the first cultural history that delves into those questions, using newspapers, novels, and other primary sources. Tracing fifty years of technological transformation, from Morse's invention of the telegraph to Roentgen's discovery of X-rays, she has created a revealing portrait of an anxious age.

"Synopsis" by , Praise for GENUINE REALITY: A Life of William James

"Compelling ..... James comes wonderfully alive. In Genuine Reality, you more than notice him; you become engaged in his struggles as if they were your own." -- The New York Times

"One of the distinctions of Linda Simon's well-written, well-paced biography is how much insight she gives us into James's family background. Reading her, one comes to understand just how much William had to contend with in his efforts to break free and go relatively sane. This well-crafted, comprehensive book is a real achievement." — Washington Post Book World


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