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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Gothic Undercurrents

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Activities: Context Activities

Unnatural Reason/Weird Science

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Dr. Wieland's Celebrated Sugar Worm Lozenges

[3161] C. F. Wieland, Dr. Wieland's Celebrated Sugar Worm Lozenges (1856),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-102488].
Questions     Archive

Alongside the enthusiasm for technological progress and the Industrial Revolution, the nineteenth century experienced widespread anxiety about the costs of technology and resulting urbanization and alienation. Herman Melville, in "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," and Rebecca Harding Davis, in Life in the Iron Mills, wrote of the dehumanizing potential of industrial labor. Melville, in "The Bell-Tower," and Hawthorne, in works like "Rappaccini's Daughter" and "The Birth-Mark," followed Mary Shelley's lead in Frankenstein, suggesting that scientific ambition can be easily associated with hubris--dangerously overweening pride that inevitably led to the destruction of the scientist. Moreover, industrial labor was seen by some as a challenge to republican individualism: the worker became a cog in the machine, no longer an autonomous producer. Many felt technology as a threat, a kind of monstrous "machine in the garden"--to borrow Leo Marx's term--one that invaded people's lives, producing potentially catastrophic side effects.

  1. Comprehension: What sense do you get of the factory in view of the "Architectural Iron Works, 13th & 14th Sts., East River, New York"? Does this seem like an inviting place to work? Why or why not? Compare this image with the depiction of the factory in Herman Melville's "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids."

  2. Context: How could you see "Molten Metal to Casts," in the archive, as an argument against industrial labor? How is this argument similar to and different from Harriet Beecher Stowe's abolitionist stance in Uncle Tom's Cabin?

  3. Exploration: The archive images of "Dr. Wieland's Celebrated Sugar Worm Lozenges" and "Moorhead's Improved Graduated Magnetic Machine" implicitly promise that technology can improve daily life. Do you see these promises explored in any of the texts of Unit 6? In your own life? Do you trust these promises? Do these promises bear any resemblance to Rappaccini's experiment?
[3159] Sarony, Major & Knapp, View of the Architectural Iron Works, 13th & 14th Sts., East River, New York (1865),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZC4-2787].
D. D. Badger and Company Architectural Iron Works in New York City. Cast-iron building facades were an industrial alternative to those made of the more traditional, and more expensive, hand-carved stone.

[3161] C. F. Wieland, Dr. Wieland's Celebrated Sugar Worm Lozenges (1856),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-102488].
Patent medicine label with an illustration of respectable-looking women supervising children in a sitting room and smaller illustrations of laboring women (and one man). As science and medicine gained acceptance in the mid-nineteenth century, such medications became popular. This one was marketed to female consumers.

[3162] Bald, Cousland & Co., New York & Philadelphia, Proof for Bank Note Vignette Showing Men Carrying Molten Metal to Casts (1857),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-99585].
This engraving for a bank note proof shows iron workers transferring a crucible of molten metal to the casting area. Many states, and some private companies, printed their own notes prior to the nationalization of currency during the Civil War.

[7249] Anonymous, Carter's Little Liver Pills (c.1860),
courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Samuel Rosenberg Collection [LC-USZ62-75898].
Trade card advertisement for liver pills, depicting a woman with a "wretched nervous headache" who is amazed that her husband could be chipper after a late night. The success of such nineteenth-century medications was due to the growing belief that science could improve the daily life of Americans.

[8650] Emory Elliott, Interview: "Hawthorne's Relation to the Puritan Past" (2001),
courtesy of Annenberg Media.
Emory Elliott, professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, reads an excerpt from Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter."

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