By Mark Seltzer
A unique exam of the body-machine complicated and its results at the glossy American cultural mind's eye, exploring quite a number realist and naturalist writings from Hawthorne and Henry James to scouting manuals and heavily produced tradition.
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Additional info for Bodies and Machines
The beauty of the perfect woman" and the mother-land, "palpitating with the desire of reproduction" in the "hidden tumult of its womb" (2 : 2 1 5 , 1 : 122), "the great earth, the mother, after its period of reproduction, its pains of labour, delivered of the fruit of its loins, [sleeping] the sleep of exhaustion in the infinite repose of the colossus" ( 1 : 123, 2 : 342-43). On the other side, Norris represents the technology of the steam machine, "the jarring, jolting, trembling machine . . [t]he heroic embrace of a multitude of iron hands, gripping deep into the brown, warm flesh of the land" ( 1 : 12425).
This machine, however, takes on a strikingly different form: it is a generator of "primordial energy flung out from the hand of the Lord God himself, immortal, calm, infinitely strong. " One might say that creation, in Norris's final explanation, is the work of an inexhaustible masturbator, spilling his seed on the ground, the product of a mechanistic and miraculous onanism. The third term in Norris's triptych of mother, force, and onanist-machine places power back into the hands of the immortal and autonomous male technology of generation.
In Norris's formulation, "Nature was, then, a gigantic engine" (2:286). This is enough to indicate, at least provisionally, part of what I The Naturalist Machine / 31 suggest is at the back of Norris's rewriting of production and some of the implications and effects of that revision. But as I earlier indicated, the logic of the passage I began by considering is yet more complicated. The translation of earth-mother into force is immediately succeeded by yet another explanation of generation, an explanation that goes even a step further.