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Notes on the Underground: An Essay on…

Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the… (1990)

by Rosalind Williams

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It's now available as an ebook on the MIT press portal http://mitpress-ebooks.mit.edu/product/notes-on-underground-new-edition
  ipublishcentral | Jul 28, 2009 |
Now this was an unexpected treat. I remember when this first arrived from Amazon a few years ago I was a little surprised and wondered if I'd clicked on the wrong link by mistake; it certainly didn't look like the sort of book I'd buy. On having decided to read it, my guess is that I bought it on the strength of a rave review I saw somewhere on the internet; it seems like a book that would garner rave reviews.

After pointing out that the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in an unprecedented amount of excavation all over Europe (for canals, then railways, then subways and sewers), the author discusses various ways in which "the underground" was viewed in literature of the time, for example in terms of a path to knowledge (the
beginnings of geology and paleontology), or as somewhere to place utopias or dystopias.

I don't really know how to view literary criticism like this. It certainly is entertaining to see such erudition displayed, and to see various unexpected threads pulled together. On the other hand, I'm not sure of the extent to which one can view it as anything more than entertainment. It seems to me that one can probably prove any thesis one likes about how "society" feels or felt about some issue by cherry-picking from the available art and literature, and how is one to quantify that enough examples qualify as a weight of evidence, not cherry-picking?

But that's not to deny that the book really is very well written and very interesting. ( )
  name99 | Nov 11, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 026223145X, Hardcover)

In a work that masterfully combines the study of technology and literature, Rosalind Williams argues that today the subterranean environment has become a model for a future dominated by technology.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:31 -0400)

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