Monday, April 9, 2018 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm
423 Morrill Hall
Power Lines: What Electricity Teaches Us about Literary and Technological History
Electrification has touched nearly every aspect of American life. Between 1882 and 1952, it changed daily routines, inspired new art forms, revolutionized the fields of chemistry, biology, and physics—it even changed landscapes and ecosystems. The corporate and scientific dimensions of this history have been told; Dr. Jennifer Lieberman tells the narrative and cultural history. Discussing her book, Power Lines: Electricity in American Life and Letters, 1882-1952 (MIT Press, 2017), Lieberman will chronicle how electricity became a metaphor for modern American life in the late nineteenth century. Drawing on STS, American Studies, and literary studies, this talk--like the book--will demonstrate the importance of studying technology and the humanities together. It will touch on such questions as: What do writers like Jack London have to teach us about electrification--and how might their examples help us understand the power outages in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria? How did writers and technologists reconcile fantasies about American individualism with a new emphasis on systems? How is this history usable--what can we learn from it today?