Narrative Machine: The Naturalist, Modernist, and Postmodernist Novel advances a new history of the novel, identifying a crucial link between narrative innovation and the historical process of mechanization. In the late nineteenth century, the novel grapples with a new and increasingly acute problem: In its attempt to represent the colossal power of modern machinery—the steam-driven machines of the Industrial Revolution, the electrical machines of the modern city, and the atomic and digital machines developed after the Second World War—it encounters the limitations of traditional representative strategies. Beginning in the naturalist novel, the machine is typically portrayed as a mythic monster, and though that monster represents a potentially horrific reality—the superhuman power of mechanization—it also disrupts the documentary objectives of narrative realism (the dominant mode of nineteenth-century fiction). The mechanical monster, realistic and yet at odds with traditional realist strategies, tears the form of the novel apart. In doing so, it unleashes a series of innovations that disclose, critique, and contest the force of mechanization: the innovations associated with literary naturalism, modernism, and postmodernism.

chapter |30 pages


part I|59 pages

Naturalism and the Mechanical Monster

part II|60 pages

Modernism versus the Machine

chapter 4|21 pages

Lawrence and the Monster Machine

chapter 5|19 pages

Joyce’s Utopian Machine

chapter 6|20 pages

Against the Quotidian Machine

Woolf, Hemingway, and Proust

part III|72 pages


chapter 7|21 pages

The New Sunshine

Ballard, Vonnegut, and Dick

chapter 9|26 pages

The Machinery of Liberation

Georges Perec