By Mark Seltzer
A unique exam of the body-machine complicated and its results at the sleek American cultural mind's eye, exploring a number of realist and naturalist writings from Hawthorne and Henry James to scouting manuals and industrially produced tradition.
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Extra resources for Bodies and Machines
What is 42 / PART ONE desired is an adjustment between conflicting practices, between a proper conservation of vital powers and the productive utilization of those powers. "The means of self-gratification," Strong insists, "must not outgrow the power of self-control, " and more powerful technolo gies of production must be " accompanied by an increasing power of , control. " One might point to the "medicalization" of late nineteenth-century American society, the rise of therapeutic practices, of eugenics, euthenics, "scientific motherhood," and "physical cul tures," and also the rewritings of sexual biology and reproduction already considered.
But I want to close this account of The Octopus 32 / PART ONE by suggesting at least some of the more local "stories " that constitute the novel's techniques of generation and invention of a technology of generation that is also a technology of power. Put simply, what unites these stories is the desire to project an alternative to biological reproduction, to displace the threat posed by the "women people" (the reduction of men to "mere animalcules" in the process of procreation) and to devise a counter-mode of reproduc tion (the naturalist machine).
Derrick, does he grow his wheat? The Wheat grows itself. What does he count for? Does he supply the force? " (2:285). Crucially, by the logic of this larger view, there are no producers at all: all are middlemen, equally subject to or carriers of uncontrollable forces. One consequence of such a view is, of course, a radical emptying of the category of production-the very category that the social-economic "protest" the novel might be seen to embody centrally requires. - . The Naturalist Machine / 27 Yet i f production does not have a secure place in Norris's economic theory, the novel does offer an account of the "enigma of growth" and "mystery of creation" (2:343 ) .