Tamara Ketabgian recently appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio’s University of the Air to discuss her recent book, The Lives of Machines: The Industrial Imaginary in Victorian Literature and Culture. Ketabgian’s book examines, among other things, the influence of the industrial revolution’s technological advances on how we see ourselves as humans.
“I wanted to give people a different sense of what was happening in the Victorian period,” Ketabgian told listeners during her appearance on WPR. “I think that we have accepted a historical account of machines as dead and as alienating and as antithetical to human-ness. But actually, people were imagining machines as very much alive and as running on energy that was organic, that was the same kind of energy that human bodies and animal bodies ran on. And machines were also incredibly vital and vibrant because they were power machines, they were not simply clockwork but they were run by coal, they were more vibrant and virile than ever before.”
Ketabgian and hosts Norman Gilliland and Emily Auerbach discussed the many passages relating to machinery in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, with Ketabgian noting that Dickens “talks about a continuum between the mechanical and the human.” “There’s something very human about machines; there’s a way in which we can very much identify with machinery, they are our creatures,” she said.
Download the full interview from Wisconsin Public Radio to hear more about the impact of machines on the Victorian imagination!