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Great Expectations (1860-61) offers a lesson in what it meant to live through the nineteenth century’s global revolution in transportation. The narrating protagonist Pip, looking back from 1860, structures his story partly around his recognition that he was born into an increasingly connected global network. From a first-person perspective, unknown activity at a distance—such as that of the convict Magwitch in Australia—turns out to be synchronically consequential. Rather than discovering, however, the fragmentation of an unknowable world, the narrator learns from the collocation and interchangeability of the transport system’s passengers. These help to contribute to the development of Pip’s limited third-person view of himself, from which the narrator relays his story as a networked subject.
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.
The experience of modernization -- the dizzying social changes that swept millions of people into the capitalist world -- and modernism in art, literature and architecture are brilliantly integrated in this account.