Dynamite Violence

Sarah Cole

in At the Violet Hour

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195389616
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979226 | DOI:

Series: Modernist Literature and Culture

Dynamite Violence

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This chapter inaugurates the book's historical methodology, delving into the literary and cultural history of dynamite violence as it was cultivated in the nineteenth century and into the modernist period. It argues that dynamite violence, with its connection to radicalism, its melodramatic and sensationalist appeal, and its ultimate mutation into the threat of terrorism, becomes a consummate embodiment of modernist approaches to the problem of political violence. This extensive history features discussion of historical anarchists and the public reaction to anarchism in England, of popular dynamite novels, and of works by Wilde, Zola, Chesterton, and James. The chapter culminates in an extended reading of Conrad's The Secret Agent, a novel whose approach to the material realities of dynamite violence, flirtation with melodrama, attraction to sensational events and styles, and final insinuation of a genuinely modern form of violence in the threat of the lone terrorist, make it exceptionally resonant as a reflection on violence in the modern world.

Keywords: dynamite; dynamite novel; political violence; anarchism; terrorism; melodrama; sensationalism; Oscar Wilde; Henry James; Jospeh Conrad, The Secret Agent

Chapter.  21796 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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