Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Carol Sheriff

Committee Member

Hiroshi Kitamura


Masters of Light and Flight: The Spectacle of Invention in fin-de-siècle U.S. Popular Culture, 1876-1917 Popular fascination with inventors in U.S. popular culture was at a high point in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century. This paper analyzes the discourse surrounding inventors in the aviation and aeronautics industries: including Thomas Alva Edison, Nicola Tesla, Glenn Curtiss and Wilbur and Orville Wright. By analyzing invention as a spectacle, it sheds light on the relationships between the spectacle of invention and industrial modernity. On the one hand, inventors became popular symbols of control over the process of labor and its products during an era when the alienation of industrial and commercial labor, as well as the rising dangers of urban life were on the minds of many Americans. at the same time, popular coverage of inventors reminded the average person that mastery was no longer available to the ordinary but now only to exceptional celebrity-inventors. Finally, the discourse surrounding these celebrity-inventors facilitated a cultural transition from a 19th century worldview in which value was placed upon individual mastery to a 20th century worldview in which value was placed upon the collective mastery of corporations and the state. “This Most Republican Amalgamation:” The Ideology of the Manual Labor Movement in Early U.S. Education. In the 1820s and 1830s, reformers from disparate ideological traditions—including utopian socialists, abolitionist reformers, and more conservative reformers—were drawn to the manual labor system of education. They sought to introduce mechanical and agricultural labor into the curricula of colleges and seminaries for young men. Reformers believed that this would make education more affordable and healthful. This paper analyzes the way different supporters of the manual labor movement articulated visions of republicanism and Northern nationalism in their efforts to promote the manual labor system. In their articulations of republicanism and Northern nationalism, abolitionist and socialist manual laborites created legitimate space for the exercise of state power to promote and protect equality.



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Available for download on Monday, May 01, 2023