The character of a global transport infrastructure: Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days

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Jules Verne’s Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, serialized in 1872 and published in English in 1874 as Around the World in Eighty Days, displays through its hero the character, in both senses of the term, of the new global public transport system that had transformed long-distance travel in the nineteenth century. Verne’s fiction imagines the community defined by this system in three particular elements: A high-speed public transport network creates a community of people by extending their synchronic collective sense of ongoing separate simultaneous activity and, collaterally, unifies them historically as contemporaries defined by the current mode, form and speed of their transport network; it creates this community of people irrespective of the individual purposes for which they use the transport system; and individuals comprehend this networked community by projecting an omniscient-like perspective through which they imagine themselves and others as circulating bodies in it.

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... Exciting work is already brewing, for example Jonathan Grossman's analysis of global transport networks and infrastructures in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, Richard Menke's discussion of the telegraph's relation to realism, and Laura Rotunno's study of literature and the postal system-in particular, the effect of Anthony Trollope's work for the post office on his novels. 3 For the canon-breakers, the possibilities are even more extensive. The Victorians clearly prized efficiency, and laid the foundations for global commerce and militarism; these two facts are linked in ways that will re-illuminate modern experience as modes of logistical life. ...
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This article analyses ways in which questions of nineteenth-century tourism manifest themselves in certain of Jules Verne’s Voyages extraordinaires. In particular, it discusses several tensions within the form of these novels: (1) within developing practices of tourism encompassed by John Urry’s concept of the ‘tourist gaze’ and a contrary set of practices we might term by analogy the ‘engineer’s gaze’; (2) between standard sites of tourist itineraries and those hidden from the light of day; (3) the alternation of the latter tourism between two modes: the armchair tourism offered by Verne’s novels and other fictional and nonfictional works of the period and their perilous exploration by privileged individuals. The article uses Verne’s fiction to unpack these three tensions in order to get at what is at stake in the rise of new modes of tourism during the nineteenth century. The article concludes by considering implications for the rise in what we might term ‘dark’ Victorianism at the end of the twentieth century.
Such novels as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days have made Jules Verne the most widely translated of all French authors. But he has typically been categorised as the father of science fiction or as a writer of harmless fantasies for children. This book relocates Verne squarely at the centre of the literary map. The author shows that a recurrent narrative (exemplified in short stories by Napoleon Bonaparte and Jorge Luis Borges), relating the strange destiny of a masked prophet who revolts against an empire, runs through Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires. This approach illuminates the paradoxical coalition in Verne of realism and invention, repression and transgression, imperialism and anarchy. In this book Verne emerges not just as a key to the political and literary imagination of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but as a model for reading fiction in general.