Mechanical Occult: Automatism, Modernism, and the Specter of Politics

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Overview

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, technology and spirituality formed uncanny alliances in countless manifestations of automatism. From Victorian mediums to the psychiatrists who studied them, from the Fordist assembly line to the Hollywood studios that adopted its practices, from Surrealism on the left to Futurism and Vorticism on the right, the unpredictable paths of automatic practice and ideology present a means by which to explore both the utopian and dystopian possibilities of technological and cultural innovation. Focusing on the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and William Butler Yeats, Alan Ramon Clinton argues that, given the wide-reaching influence of automatism, as much can be learned from these writers' means of production as from their finished products. At a time when criticism has grown polarized between political and aesthetic approaches to high modernism, this book provocatively develops its own automatic procedures to explore the works of these writers as fields rich in potential choices, some more spectral than others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820469430
  • Publisher: Lang, Peter Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/2004
  • Pages: 225
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Conservative modernism and the automatic response 1
2 The mechanical occult 43
3 High modernism and Hollywood in deep focus 75
4 Two cages : second thoughts at Pisa 113
5 Shuffling Eliot's cards 139
6 Revision the rough beast 161
7 A posthuman seance 191
App The rules and functions of divination techniques 199
Notes 201
Bibliography 213
Index 221
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    automatism and modern society

    Clinton sees the automatism attracting much interest in late 18th/early 19th century society as combining the modernist social elements of spirituality and psychology with the modernism's development of machinery and regimentation of factory workers to maximize machinery's potential. For the automatists to access the spiritual realm, they had to follow quite rigid steps or techniques of mind control and bodily discipline. But Clinton takes the subject of early 20th-century automatism outside of its association with magic, kinds of parlor entertainment, and seances communicating with the dead to connect it to literature and broader social activities. Yeats is the writer most readily connecting to automatism. But T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound were also intrigued by automatism and to considerable degrees affected by it. Clinton does not just look for evidences of this influence in these major writers' works, but in how they created their works. The author sees similarities between these authors' work of creation and the techniques of the automatists. Social critics such as Freud, Adorno, and Horkeimer recognized the strong influence of automatism or something akin to it on modern individuals and the culture, including Hollywood in its early days. 'Mechanical Occult'--by an author who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Dept. of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Tech with published articles on the subjects in the book--is a fascinating cultural study of a phenomenon which readers will come to realize, is not a bygone curiosity, but a multifaceted cultural element which continues to have effects on society.

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