John Tresch

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20082009 Forum on Change

John Tresch

Assistant Professor, History and Sociology of Science

The Romantic Machine: Science and Utopian Technologies in France, 1820 to 1851

Romanticism has often been interpreted as a reaction against the changes brought by industrialization. This commonplace relies on a familiar opposition setting mechanism, calculation and reductionism against aesthetics, emotion and organic thought. On the contrary, The Romantic Machine shows how, in France after Napoleon’s fall, science and art were seen as complementary or even equivalent instruments for uniting a society fractured by revolution and reaction. Romantic literature, arts and popular spectacle relied on science and technology as their inspiration and vehicle; reciprocally, romantic enthusiasms infused mechanical innovations, scientific research and technological utopias. Focusing on specific technologies— steam engines, electromagnetic instruments, daguerreotypes, mass-scale printing— this book explores unexpected connections between such diverse phenomena as nature painting, plans for a national railroad, fantastic literature and positivist sociology.