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By Jason Puskar

This publication argues that language and literature actively produced probability within the overdue 19th and early 20th centuries through categorizing accidents and losses as blameless of layout. motor vehicle collisions and occupational accidents grew to become "car injuries" and "industrial accidents." in the course of the post-Civil conflict interval of racial, ethnic, and class-based hostility, probability used to be an summary enemy opposed to which society could unite. through generating likelihood, novels through William Dean Howells, Stephen Crane, Anna Katharine eco-friendly, Edith Wharton, Theodore Dreiser, and James Cain documented and helped determine new modes of collective interdependence. likelihood this is hooked up now not with the aggressive individualism of the Gilded Age, yet with very important innovative and social democratic reforms, together with advancements in assurance, which had lengthy hired twist of fate narratives to form its personal "mutual society." Accident Society unearths the level to which American collectivity has depended—and keeps to depend—on the literary creation of chance.

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Extra resources for Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance

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17 For Lukács, description is thus complicit with capitalism and bourgeois values, in that it conceals the real basis of social life behind a fragmentary account of private experience. ”19 Conversely, in the works of those writers he criticizes (Zola and Flaubert), accidents are rendered in meticulously descriptive detail but are little integrated into a fuller account of social life. To arrange through narrative is to move past chance, back toward order and reason, whereas to level through description is to concede, disastrously, that nothing is linked by necessity to anything else.

5 It may seem strange to contemporary readers that an insurance company would have such a newspaper, but, in fact, the industry had dozens, possibly hundreds, of them. Beginning in the nineteenth century, insurance propagated a massive publishing arm that produced internal company periodicals and supported a vigorous independent press. Journals such as the Western Underwriter and the Insurance Monitor combined the dry work of trade magazines—reporting on market conditions and pending legislation—with greater literary ambition, and often they were run by men with no small amount of education and artistic ambition.

Together, these chapters organize related sets of materials without contriving an excessively linear story of development, but while still tracing key historical changes through these decades. One of the things I have come to admire in these writers is their love of variety, which they indulge even at the expense of formal elegance or narrative cohesion. Aesthetic variety, formal inconsistency, and narrative irregularity are the very tools these writers often use to hammer out chance. To be true to its sources, a literary history of chance must not fail to be a little haphazard too.

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