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Looking ForwardPrediction and Uncertainty in Modern America$
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Jamie L. Pietruska

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226475004

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226509150.001.0001

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Crisis of Certainty

Crisis of Certainty

(p.1) Introduction Crisis of Certainty
Looking Forward

Jamie L. Pietruska

University of Chicago Press

This chapter begins with a discussion of Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward and its personification of Gilded Age economic life as “the specter of Uncertainty.” It presents an overview of the book’s topic, arguments, and scholarly contributions to histories of science, technology, capitalism, and culture. The chapter describes a late-nineteenth-century crisis of certainty in a range of contexts, including economic volatility, industrial labor, law, insurance, determinism, and ideas about chance. The chapter also identifies a late-nineteenth-century culture of prediction in which the routinized forecasts of everyday life circulated alongside visions of the future in contexts including literary and technological futurism, ideologies of progress and expansionism, and ideas about climate and settlement.

Keywords:   Looking Backward, specter of Uncertainty, culture of prediction, Gilded Age, crisis of certainty, science, technology, capitalism, economic life, culture

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