Time and Space, Truth and Fiction in the Works of H. G. Wells and Henry James Open Access

Agnew, Kelsey Rae (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/12579s840?locale=en


A number of scientific and technological innovations that came about during the nineteenth century had a resounding effect on Victorian culture. The advent of the railway along with the introduction of new communications media and radical biological and geological discoveries had major implications for western society's understanding of the relationship between space and time and of humanity's role within that relationship. As time and space were expanded, the speed at which they could be experienced caused
them to be simultaneously annihilated, greatly increasing the number of impressions - and the amount of experience - an individual could acquire. By the 1890s, the effects of this phenomenon had become some of the most widely discussed topics in a multitude of cultural discourses, and since, as H. Porter Abbott writes in the Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, "the representation of conflict in narrative provides a way for a culture to talk to itself about, and possibly resolve, conflicts that threaten to fracture it (or at least making living difficult)," the literature produced during the last decade of the century exemplifies the extent to which these changes influenced society on both individual and collective levels. This thesis focuses on two works by Henry James - The Turn of the Screw and In the Cage, both published in 1898 - as well as H. G. Wells's The Time Machine, published in 1895. Shortly after these works were introduced into Victorian culture, James and Wells became involved in a lifelong quarrel regarding the purpose of the novel: Wells adeptly explained it in a 1915 letter to James when he stated, "to you literature like painting is an end, to me literature like architecture is a means, it has a use." Despite their differences - as Wells confessed, "I had a queer feeling that we were both incompatibly right" - both authors address the newly-realized ambiguity of the relationships between time and space, truth and fiction, man and machine.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction - 1
1. The Art(s) of Fiction - 11
2. The Time Machine: An Experiment in Fiction - 16
3. The Ambiguity of Truth in The Turn of the Screw - 34
4. The Telegraphist and the Novelist: Making Knowledge of Impressions - 47
Conclusion - 61
Bibliography - 65

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