Date of Award

Summer 8-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Departments/Programs

English

First Advisor

Tanya Agathocleous

Second Advisor

Kelvin Black

Academic Program Adviser

Janet Neary

Abstract

Frequently in their respective oeuvres, Verne and Wells write in a rhetoric of conquest that almost always translates to discovering a more efficient means of taming wild, non-European environments. These goals extend not only to the lands that their protagonists explore, but also to human beings and other life that may populate them. Indeed, the underlying focus—the one that is masked behind the thrill and adventure of both Wells and Verne—is none other than the march of progress as understood by middle-class Europeans in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Progress can produce positivistic optimism, and it can also produce existential anxiety. The through-line that links the work of both Verne and Wells is the use of these new or theoretical technologies in order to express these ideologies, whether for valorization or condemnation of European imperialism and colonialism. The fictional men of science who wield these technologies, likewise, serve as an expression of the consequences of what happens when human beings are granted more efficient means of power over their fellow men. The scientific romances of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells serve exclusively as a medium through which to speculate over the linked subjects of progress and empire: to what extent human beings may affect control over the earth and the men who live there, the consequences thereof, and the value of progress as it is foisted upon supposedly primitive societies by the hands of European progressives who claim to know better

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