Book Cover

Mobility and Modernity

Panama in the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Imagination

Robert D. Aguirre

232 pp. 6 x 9
44 b&w illustrations
Pub Date: August 4, 2017

Subjects: Victorian Studies, Caribbean Studies, Latinx and Latin American Studies

Add Paperback to cart $24.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-5430-1
Add PDF Ebook to Cart$29.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-7520-7

“Aguirre’s analysis sheds light on an archive that has been largely neglected by literary historians but speaks meaningfully to the work of scholars in the fields of nineteenth-century trans-Atlanticism, empire, and globalization.” —Rebecca Cole Heinowitz, author of Spanish America and British Romanticism, 1777–1826

“What place did Panama hold in the Anglo-American imagination in the run up to the opening of the canal? This book answers that question. In doing so it also—wonderfully—overthrows the question. We have before us here both an exciting study of Panama and of the modern Western invention of an archetypal global ‘no-place’ primarily understood as a transit between.” —Jonathan Grossman, author of Charles Dickens’s Networks: Public Transport and the Novel

Mobility and Modernity: Panama in the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Imagination rewrites the history of the Panama Canal, assessing for the first time the literary culture of the preceding decades. In this period, U.S. and British writers and visual artists developed sophisticated languages of mobility, time, and speed to cast the isthmus as an in-between place, a point of connection to more important destinations. These discourses served an important role in their own day and laid the imaginative ground for the canal to come.

In this study, Robert D. Aguirre provides bold new interpretations of Anthony Trollope, John Lloyd Stephens, and Eadweard Muybridge and also recovers information about literary communities previously lost to history. Mobility and Modernity shows how Panama became defined as a site of incipient globalization and a crucial link of empire. Across this narrow strip of land people and things traveled, technology developed, and political forces erupted. The isthmus became a site of mobility that paradoxically produced varieties of immobility. Parting ways with histories that celebrate the canal as a mighty engineering feat, Mobility and Modernity reveals a more complex story of cultural conflict that began with the first gold rush news in the late 1840s and continued throughout the century.

Robert D. Aguirre is Professor of English at Wayne State University and author of Informal Empire: Mexico and Central American in Victorian Culture.


List of Illustrations

INTRODUCTION - Mobility and Modernity

CHAPTER 1 - Short Cuts: The Panama Railroad and the Making of the Yankee Strip

CHAPTER 2 - Panama as St. Martin’s-le-Grand: Communication and Mobility in Trollope’s The West Indies and the Spanish Main

CHAPTER 3 - Photographing Panama: Eadweard Muybridge and Trans-Hemispheric Modernity

CHAPTER 4 - The Dissonant Lyre: The Panama Poetry of J.S. Gilbert, “Kipling of the Isthmus”

EPILOGUE - The Isthmus as Tourist Paradise


Related Titles:

Book Cover

Imperial Media

Colonial Networks and Information Technologies in the British Literary Imagination, 1857–1918

Aaron Worth

Book Cover

Romantic Globalism

British Literature and Modern World Order, 1780–1830

Evan Gottlieb

Book Cover

Educating Seeta

The Anglo-Indian Family Romance and the Poetics of Indirect Rule

Shuchi Kapila

Book Cover

When the Devil Knocks

The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in Twentieth-Century Panama

Renée Alexander Craft