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In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), Hank Morgan attempts to “resurrect” the “dead nation” of Camelot by reenacting the history of American electrical invention from the lightning rod through the electric execution device. But Hank sees electricity as more than a useful power source; he is fascinated with the symbolic economy that links electricity to individual power and to modern American democracy. Consequently, although many of his most spectacular (re)inventions are nonelectrical, Hank describes his colonization of Camelot with an evocative electrical metaphor: “I stood with my hand on the cock, so to speak, ready to turn it on and flood the midnight world with intolerable light at any moment. But I was not going to do the thing in that sudden way. It was not my policy. The people could not have stood it […] I was turning on my light one-candle-power at a time, and meant to continue to do so” (120). While this passage depicts the Yankee as a careful humanitarian, its reference to “intolerable light” marks the destructive potential of electrical circuitry and Hank's exultation in controlling it. This scene illustrates how Hank conflates a synecdoche of nineteenth-century civilization—the electric light—with the substance of social progress—the enlightenment of the sixth-century lower classes.

Hank's tendency to read Gilded-Age electrical symbolism onto technological devices is exacerbated after the Church bans the use of Hank's inventions: “From being the best electric-lighted town in the kingdom and the most like a recumbent sun of anything you ever saw, it was become simply a blot—a blot upon darkness—that is to say, it was darker and solider than the rest of the darkness, and so you could see it a little better; it made me feel as if maybe it was symbolical” (528). Metaphors of electrical power are so intertwined in Hank's understanding of technology and progress that he interprets the absence of electric lighting as a rejection of scientific and moral enlightenment. According to the conventional light and dark imagery that Hank reads onto electrical infrastructure, he sees himself as the champion of knowledge and democracy fighting against hegemonic forces of the Dark Ages without recognizing how his own secretive use of electricity has kept the majority of Camelot “in the dark.” Thus, when Hank uses an electrical control panel to electrocute the masses rather than enlighten them, he still describes himself in progressive terms. By highlighting these discrepancies between Hank's electrical poetics and his actual inventions, A Connecticut Yankee engages and interrogates the symbolic values of electricity that emerged during the end of the nineteenth century.

Hank's electrical metaphors speak to contemporary popular discourse about the control and distribution of power. Throughout the 1880s and continuing into the twentieth century, images like Figure 1, which emphasize the power of the user who yields electricity, were widely circulated in advertisements, technical journals, and textbooks. Recalling the legends of Zeus and of mythologized inventors like Benjamin Franklin, this icon represents the confluence of electrical and personal power that Hank displays when he explodes Merlin's tower at the beginning of the novel and when he electrocutes thousands of knights at the end. Indeed, the image of directly controlling electricity is so alluring to Hank that he often describes himself as manipulating electricity with his hands—even when the apparatus he uses, like the lightning rod, lacks a button.

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Figure 1.  Common image used in advertisements and technical literature at the turn of the century. Image taken from an advertisement for the Faraday Cable, distributed by American Electrical Works, Providence, RI.

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After Thomas Alva Edison created the first incandescent lighting system in 1882, this godlike image of electrical control became associated with a progressive interpretation of electrical distribution. Linking electrical networks to public welfare, Edison suggested that modern societies were vitalized by electric wires: “Hardly a nerve or fiber of that complex body which we call society that [sic] has not thrilled and vibrated with electricity's influence. It has strengthened the bonds of international amity […] it has even warmed and strengthened the social forces” (185). The notion of a political body synapsed together by electric “nerves” was attractive – especially to Yankees like Hank—in the wake of the Civil War and Reconstruction. A scion of Franklin and Edison's legacies, Hank embodies the resourceful tinkerer who draws lightning from the sky to aggrandize his own power (as he does with a lightning rod at Merlin's tower and simulates with electrical buttons in the Valley of Holiness), as well as the modern industrial electrician who “invents” networked infrastructure that he perceives as socially progressive. He values political revolution but problematically sees it as attainable through the development of commercial electrical technologies.

Despite its significance, A Connecticut Yankee's electrical imagery has been underexamined. Criticism since the 1960s has approached the novel's depiction of technology as a dark fantasy of machinery running amok, arguing, among other things, that the violent battle of the sand-belt reflected Clemens's frustration with the Paige typesetter—a complicated printing machine that proved to be a disastrous investment for the author during his composition of the novel.1 This persistent emphasis on the mechanical often overlooks salient electrical imagery, as well as the fact that Clemens and his contemporaries interpreted the novel as affirming progressive ideals.2 This paper analyzes and contextualizes A Connecticut Yankee's electrical imagery to attend to these crucial interpretive contexts. In so doing, it aims to shed new light on incongruities that have been at the center of controversy about A Connecticut Yankee since its publication, and to build on recent scholarship that has challenged longstanding claims about “authorial incoherence” in Clemens's work (Morris 159).3

Electrifying Camelot

  1. Top of page
  2. Electrifying Camelot
  3. Connections and Disconnections
  4. End Notes
  5. Works Cited

Edward Bellamy's best-selling novel, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888), provides an illuminating parallel that helps to clarify the Gilded-Age fantasies about American technological modernity, which are at the center of Clemens's work. Published the year before A Connecticut Yankee, Looking Backward depicts how nineteenth-century networks could catalyze a modern utopia:

The small capitalists […] had in fact yielded the field to the great aggregations of capital, because they belonged to a day of small things and were totally incompetent to the demands of an age of steam and telegraphs and the gigantic scale of its enterprises. To restore the former order of things, even if possible, would have involved returning to the day of stagecoaches. Oppressive and intolerable as was the regime of the great consolidations of capital, even its victims, while they cursed it, were forced to admit the prodigious increase of efficiency which had been imparted to the national industries, the vast economies effected by concentration of management and unity of organization, and to confess that since the new system had taken the place of the old the wealth of the world had increased at a rate before undreamed of. (36)

Bellamy suggests that networked technologies made progress inevitable by rendering a return to old ways intolerable. In A Connecticut Yankee, Hank similarly believes that developing telegraph and telephone systems—as well as closely-related systems and institutions, such as trains and print journalism—will force a break between Camelot and the modern empire he hopes to create. Crucially, however, the Yankee's techno-political vision is federalist, not socialist. Where Bellamy emphasizes the network's ability to distribute power and information equitably, Hank idealizes the network because it simultaneously distributes and centralizes power, incrementally improving social relations for many while allowing him (and an elite group of educated colleagues) to remain in control at the center.

Hank's obsession with centralized power resonates with Gilded-Age fantasies of electrical control; but it also betrays his insecurities about the culture of technological development at the turn of the century.4 Even as Hank becomes the spokesperson for “modern progress,” he admits that he was intimidated by it: “what would I amount to in the twentieth century? I should be a foreman of a factory, that is about all; and could drag a seine down-street any day and catch a hundred better men than myself” (96). As he takes to the role of revolutionary inventor with increasing fervor, the reader must bear in mind that Hank's technical expertise is not forward-looking: afraid of being subsumed by scientific and industrial practices of the twentieth century, his imagined technological utopia will only reproduce technologies and ideologies of the late-nineteenth.

The discrepancy between Hank's anxieties and fantasies about modernity become pronounced at moments when he alleges to have more control over electricity than did actual turn-of-the-century electricians. For example, although the “ground wire” was a subject of great controversy throughout the 1880s, Hank casually mentions that he builds his networks underground with “perfect” insulation: “We had another large departure on hand, too. This was a telegraph and a telephone; our first venture in this line. […] Ground wires were good enough in both instances, for my wires were protected by an insulation of my own invention which was perfect” (121). Hank ostensibly hides his networks underground to avoid detection by the Church; but in so doing he also alludes to contemporary public debates about electrical control. Beginning in 1884, New York State began passing legislation to force companies to remove their overhead wires for aesthetic and safety reasons, and soon after, other cities began to implement similar legislation. Electrical engineers fought against these mandates, arguing that the primary safety concern regarding overhead wires resulted from poor insulation and that moving badly-protected wires underground could be equally dangerous (“Raiding the Overhead Lines” 109). Nonetheless, in areas where wires overwhelmed the city skyline, electricity could be seen as an intimidating new force overtaking the city, rather than as a “tamed” force that modernized and connected it. While A Connecticut Yankee was being published, journals like Harper's Weekly were celebrating the removal of poles and wires (Figure 2). Consequently, when Hank builds his electrical networks underground and unveils them upon Camelot fully formed near the end of the novel, he provides the populace with a perfect finished product, without the “visual babble” of poorly-organized, potentially-dangerous cables typical of nineteenth-century electrical development (Nye 47).

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Figure 2 5.  Illustrations of wires and the removal of wires from a Harper's Weekly supplement, “Electrical Lighting in New York.”

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Later critics have identified Hank's obsession with centralization as a critique of American imperialism. Still, to contemporary readers who desired an electrified modernity without overhead wires, the Yankee's version of the nineteenth century would seem an improvement from the original, especially since his casual remark that his “wires were protected by an insulation of [his] own invention which was perfect” addresses modern concerns about potentially-hazardous wires. Given that A Connecticut Yankee was published in 1889—the year after New York State passed its Electric Execution Act but before the Act was actually implemented—the fact that Hank decides when electricity will be dangerous engages a popular technological fantasy at the time of the novel's publication.

By building his networks underground with perfect insulation, Hank corrects for technological problems of his home decade. However, in so doing he forces his workers to detach themselves from the society they aim to revitalize: “My men had orders to strike across country, avoiding roads, and establishing connections with any considerable towns whose lights betrayed their presence” (121). His networks do not connect people, but rather a series of lights (electric and otherwise) that metonymically represent towns. Underlining this irony, Clemens later notes that the telephone and telegraph operators—the nodes of Hank's networks—remove themselves from society entirely. When Hank happens upon a newly-erected telephone station outside of the Valley of Holiness, he is disappointed to learn that the operator has not heard of the “miracle” (or the electricity-and-dynamite demonstration) he performed only feet away. The operator explains, “ye will remember we move by night, and avoid speech with all. We learn naught but that we get by the telephone from Camelot” (303). Hank's private communications systems redirect and skew knowledge, rather than democratizing it. In this way, Hank anticipates social formations that network theorists have discussed in internet usage today—he replaces “place-to-place” with “person-to-person” communications (Wellman 15-17). The limitations of the Yankee's system suggest that Gilded-Age communication networks might be more conservative than progressive; they might reinforce social hierarchies by strengthening connections between elite consumers while leaving others “off the grid.” At times Clemens suggests that these networks do little more than prosthetically enhance Hank's ego.

As a product and producer of electrical empires, Hank imagines these networks as coextensive with his body. Indeed, scientifically-savvy readers might identify Hank as electrical since his behavior parallels a popular understanding of a fundamental principal of electrical circuits. Like vernacular descriptions of Ohm's Law, Hank creates his most potent “effects” (often in the form of shocks or sparks) when faced with strong resistance.6 Metaphorically electrical, Hank describes his own vitality as a function of his connectivity. When he discovers the new telephone station in the Valley of Holiness, for example, he exclaims: “In this atmosphere of telephones and lightning communication with distant regions, I was breathing the breath of life again after long suffocation. I realized, then, what a creepy, dull, inanimate horror this land had been to me all these years” (305). This passage emphasizes how networks enhance Morgan's sense of self and the way he perceives and interacts with the world. As Clemens noted in his journal, “A dynamo creates or generates power, but cannot exert it” (449-50); similarly, Hank's energy is wasted or depleted when he is “disconnected” from electrical power and communications networks at the end of the novel.

Given his fascination with electricity as a symbol of his own power, it is perhaps unsurprising that Hank's utopia lasts for only one chapter; the potential for networks to foster social progress is less central to the novel than the allure of using power (electrical and otherwise) for personal gain. Yet the inventor's moral and social accomplishments are nonetheless impressive: “Slavery was dead and gone; all men were equal before the law; taxation had been equalized […] all the thousand willing and handy servants of steam and electricity were working their way into favor” (513). In the terms of nineteenth-century advertisements, Hank describes electricity and steam as “servants.” He links these servants with the death of human slavery, evoking the ideology that connects commercial technological production to socioeconomic progress. According to this logic, Gilded-Age mass markets are progressive because they allow citizens to generate wealth by exploiting technological rather than human labor.

After making his techno-utopia public, Hank finds an interlude domestic bliss, suggesting a correspondence between his emotional and electrical connections.7 His family life is enhanced by his networks, and he manages his networks with a warm paternalism. When his wife names their daughter “Hello Central,” she underscores Hank's layered roles as the father of biological and technological progeny, linking ideal nineteenth-century domesticity with nineteenth-century electrical development (Lerer 480 – 481). One of the few sustained sections in which Hank uses electricity exclusively for connection and not personal enhancement, this utopian chapter registers the possibilities of bringing sympathetic and technological ideologies into harmony. Still, the illusory success of his utopia begs the question: why does it end with such violence? Critics have suggested that Hank's techno-social experiment fails precisely because of the potentially-destructive ideologies and technologies he brings into Camelot.8 Despite his isolated displays of strength, Hank repeatedly attempts to avoid broadscale violence as he attempts to bring about his revolution peacefully. Concomitantly, the Yankee's utopia is not destroyed by the “war machines” that he brings into “the garden” of Camelot, but rather by the darker aspects of human existence that he incorrectly believes his technologies would expel.

As a result of his symbolic (mis)interpretation of technology, Hank overlooks one of the fundamental qualities of the electrical and social networks he constructs: change in one component impacts the entire system. Believing himself to be in control, the Yankee is unprepared for any disruption of Camelot's power structure. But his society is unstable; its political order is unraveled by human error. As Clarence reports:

Arthur had given order that if a sword was raised during the consultation over the proposed treaty with Mordred, sound the trumpet and fall on! for he had no confidence in Mordred. Mordred had given a similar order to his people. Well, by and by an adder bit a knight's heel; the knight forgot all about the order, and made a slash at the adder with his sword. Inside of half a minute those two prodigious hosts came together with a crash! (535-6)

By staging an innocuous mistake as a primary cause of nationwide war, A Connecticut Yankee depicts human relations as intensely fragile, and suggests that, given these circumstances, technological development that compounds economic and social interdependence is an incalculable risk. Ultimately, the misinterpreted sword innocently swung at a snake catalyzes a quick transference of power that puts the Yankee and his trained apprentices in a defensive position. In this position his dynamos take on darker social meanings than they had only a few chapters earlier.

When Hank began to construct his electrical systems to produce mystifying spectacles and improve social relations, he imagines himself at a metaphorical switch, carefully turning on a light. At the battle of the Sand-belt he manifests his power in a single control panel. But the buttons he presses do not illuminate. They electrocute, explode, and demolish. Hank's fascination with electricity as a symbol affects how he creates and uses his inventions throughout the novel, but when he constructs his modern weapons, he displaces his metaphors of progressive enlightenment and focuses on basic technical details. Before the Battle of the Sand-belt begins, he explains how to build a cost-effective electrocution apparatus to his apprentice, Clarence:

You don't want any ground-connection except the one through the negative brush. The other end of every wire must be brought back into the cave and fastened independently, and without any ground-connection […] observe the economy of it […] you are using no power, you are spending no money, for there is only one ground-connection till those horses come against the wire. (542)

This passage details the hardware of an efficient electrocution apparatus of Hank's invention that would technically work as long as the wire fences were not rushed by a horde of knights simultaneously. Yet though he describes a circuit that will ground itself through intruders’ bodies with no need for external intervention, Hank chooses to manipulate the current, turning it on and off until finally he “shot the current through all the fences and struck the whole host dead in their tracks!” (564). As he controls his weaponized circuits, Hank emphasizes the awesome power of electricity and the ease and enjoyment with which he manipulates it.

Much of the battle of the Sand-belt emphasizes how electricity supplements Hank's strength, transforming him from an underdog into a victor of sorts. By contrasting Hank's war with the novel's earlier violent imagery, Clemens stages the Battle of the Sand-belt as an idealized war: it is fought only against the military without any civilian casualties, against a corrupt enemy that instigated the violence and using weapons that are incredibly powerful and easy to use. In defending his ephemeral republic in this way, Hank also performs the Gilded-Age fantasy that the modern inventor should protect the nation's economic, ideological, and geopolitical interests.9 Concomitantly, the imagery of the battle resonates with contemporary idealizations of modern warfare. Indeed, Clemens captures Gilded-Age fantasies about high-tech war so aptly that eight years after the novel was published a widely-circulated technical periodical, The Electrical Age, would cite the technological warfare “described by the great American humorist, Mark Twain, in ‘A Yankee in King Arthur's Court’” to argue that “the future of warfare, particularly the construction of barriers, will be built on such lines” (“Electricity in War” 263).

Like proponents of electric execution technologies, Clemens describes death by electric shock as immediate: “One thing seemed to be sufficiently demonstrated: our current was so tremendous that it killed before the victim could cry out” (563).10 These scenes portray the fatal potential of electric power. Yet to Clemens, a man who grew up witnessing and fearing steam-boat explosions (and who represented that fear in graphic depictions in Life on the Mississippi[1883] as well as other texts including, briefly, A Connecticut Yankee), the supposed instantaneousness of electric death must have seemed amazing, if not humane—as his enthusiastic description of the battle attests.11 Unlike Clemens's brother Henry, who died in excruciating pain from burns after a steam explosion, Hank's enemies die so quickly and silently that he and Clarence cannot ascertain immediately how well their weapon worked.12

Throughout the chapter, Clemens emphasizes how electricity changes the war aesthetic from the sword play of earlier chapters to the silent “blue spark[s]” Hank and Clarence watch through the night (563). This is the logical extreme of the iconic fist that wields electricity—the ultimate display of dominance by the individual electrical user. In this final battle Clemens dramatizes how the fascination with wielding immense individual power can explode the ideology of the socially-equalizing network. This tension between the spark and the network becomes more focused in the sand-belt chapter, as Clemens contrasts Hank's awesome strength to moments of tragic interconnection. While most of the knights die anonymously en masse, Clemens describes one specific electrocution as “awful”:

He was near enough, now, for us to see him put out a hand, find an upper wire, then bend and step under it and over the lower one. Now he arrived at the first knight—and started slightly when he discovered him. He stood a moment—no doubt wondering why the other one didn't move on; then he said, in a low voice, “Why dreamest thou here, good Sir Mar—” then he laid his hand on the corpse's shoulder—and just uttered a little soft moan and sunk down dead. Killed by a dead man, you see—killed by a dead friend, in fact. There was something awful about it. (562-3)

Capturing the macabre fact that the electric current can invisibly transform a body from a friend into a mortal danger, this scene illustrates how technological systems of power can shatter social relations, rendering intimate contact dangerous. The complementary images of Hank's electrified power and this knight's pathetic collapse solemnly registers that the life spark and the death spark are equally functions of networking bodies and electricity.

Still, the sympathy Hank feels for this electrocution does not imply that the “awfulness” lies in the technological apparatus. Since the battle of the sand-belt appears after a long description of a nation-wide war waged the old-fashioned way, this electrocution illuminates the similarity between modern and pre-modern war: both transform friends into potential killers. Therefore, the mass of decomposing flesh of the twenty-five thousand knights Hank kills by pressing a few electric buttons suggests that technologies can change the balance of power in a battle, but they cannot change the essence of war or the fact that humans wage wars in the first place. Alternately awful and awe-inspiring, the battle of the Sand-belt demonstrates both the enhanced power that electricity offers the modern American and the limitations of that power.

Connections and Disconnections

  1. Top of page
  2. Electrifying Camelot
  3. Connections and Disconnections
  4. End Notes
  5. Works Cited

In the moments preceding the battle, Hank finally recognizes that he cannot control all interconnections in the complex techno-social systems he helped to create. He begins his war by destroying all but one of the nodes in his technological networks, desperate to keep his inventions from being co-opted:

I touched a button, and shook the bones of England loose from her spine!

In that explosion all our noble civilization-factories went up in the air and disappeared from the earth. It was a pity, but it was necessary. We could not afford to let the enemy turn our own weapons against us. (554)

Hank sees his factories and networks as the producers of civilization—but only when he can control them. By pushing this button he transforms his linear narrative of technological development into a circular one: in the beginning of the novel, Hank pairs the electric spark with explosives to inspire awe; he then develops an array of modern networks; finally, he destroys these networks and returns to the raw destructive power of electric sparks and explosives. By presenting Hank's final battle in this way, Clemens sidesteps many of the contemporary controversies about electrocution to illuminate the more fundamental concern that the fascination with wielding (social and electrical) power always threatens to trump the humanitarian desire to democratize it. Drawing out the effects of Hank's overvaluation of the network's center, Clemens emphasizes the uncanny forms of interconnection and disconnection that persist regardless of Hank's technological manipulations after the civilization-factories are destroyed.

Before the modern battle commences, Hank wants to call a truce, but Clarence dissuades him from sending a messenger to the enemy. Just as the battle between Arthur and Mordred was catalyzed by suspicion and miscommunication, the battle of the Sand-belt becomes inevitable only when Hank's fear of his enemy short-circuits any attempt at communication. By opting to show off his technologically-enhanced prowess, Hank defeats his enemy, but unwittingly loses all of the electrical and emotional networks that he laboriously created. Unable articulate his failures, he concludes his manuscript with an abrupt description of his erstwhile victory in the sand-belt:

Within ten short minutes after we had opened fire, armed resistance was totally annihilated, the campaign was ended, we fifty-four were masters of England! Twenty-five thousand men lay dead around us.

But how treacherous is fortune! In a little while—say an hour—happened a thing, by my own fault, which—but I have no heart to write that. Let the record end here. (565)

From this point on, Clarence and the frame narrator, Mark Twain, take over Hank's personal memoir, demonstrating Hank's complete loss of control. Clarence's post-script explains that by “winning” the war, Hank inadvertently has barricaded himself and his men in a cave isolated by dead, rotting flesh. Hank's weapons could defend against the knights’ swords, but not against their bacteria.13 His perceived ability to manage interconnections entirely collapses.

Clarence explains that Merlin enchanted the Yankee to sleep for thirteen centuries, isolating Hank in time and space from his family and circle of momentarily-victorious rebels. The novel ends as Hank cries for his sixth-century family from his nineteenth-century deathbed, deliriously yearning for the type of emotional and electrical interconnection he developed and destroyed in Camelot. Echoing his earlier claim that he felt suffocated while he was unable to connect to telephonic networks, the conclusion describes him choking on a “death-rattle in his throat” as imminent death compounds his disconnectedness (574). Metaphorically stripped of all connections, Hank tries to produce a final “effect,” but fails. He dies a dynamo without a network—a symbol of wasted potential.

Unpacking the novel's electrical imagery does nothing to mitigate the solemnity of this conclusion; however, it can help us reexamine why contemporary critics like William Dean Howells would interpret the novel as a “glorious gospel of equality” (38). Whether we read it as a dream-sequence or a time traveler's memoir, A Connecticut Yankee suggests that technologies themselves cannot change social circumstances because they are embedded in human culture. When Hank feels magnanimous, his inventions create a utopia; when he is threatened, he resorts to destructive spectacles. By depicting this ambiguity of technological signification, the novel hints at the moral progress that might be made if, against all examples from history, we privileged interconnections over the dangerous challenge of holding awesome, unwieldy power.

End Notes

  1. Top of page
  2. Electrifying Camelot
  3. Connections and Disconnections
  4. End Notes
  5. Works Cited

My gratitude to the Smithsonian Institution's Dibner Library for a fellowship that enabled me to complete research for this essay.

1 For examples of this reading, see Camfield, 163; Cox, 89-102; Marx, 340-1; Michaels, 74 – 76; and Seltzer, 7-10. Although a few critics have noted the distance between mechanical and electrical signification in the novel, they have tended to arrive at conclusions similar to Leo Marx's, overemphasizing the mystification of the latter power in American life to argue that A Connecticut Yankee ultimately reflects the technological anxiety of its cultural moment. See Franklin, 157 – 171; and Gardiner, 448 – 458. Notably, one of Twain's frustrations with his investment in the Paige typesetter was that it inhibited his ability to invest in alternating current, which he describes as “the most valuable patent since the telephone.” See Notebooks and Journals, 431.

2 See contemporary reviews in Budd, 283-290 and Howells 38.

3 For examples of scholarship that examines Clemens's linguistic complexity, see Bird, 6-7; and Michelson, 7-8.

4 For more on the compensatory nature of Hank's inventions, see Bell, 67 – 69; and Seltzer, 10.

5Figure 2 is from a supplement to Harper's Weekly, “Electric Lightning in New York,” which detailed the removal of poles and wires from the city.

6 According to Ohm's Law, V = IR, where V is the potential difference or voltage, I is the current through the resistance in amperes, and R is the resistance measured in ohms. In other words, electricity only flows across a circuit and produces effects when forced through a resistant material. This phenomenon was commonly explained in the popular press. See for example, the 1882 New York Times article, “Electrical Resistance” and the 1882 Youth's Companion article, “Nature of Electricity.” Clemens's repeated use of the word “effects” recalls these descriptions of electricity; and the similarities between Hank and Edison heighten this association, since Edison famously discovered the importance of using high-resistance filaments in electrical lighting networks. See Hughes, 36-7.

7 On Clemens's understanding of the intersections between electricity and emotion, see Knoper, 124. On the telephone and romantic interconnection in the novel, see Halliday, 427; and Lerer, 480 – 481.

8 See Pfitzer, 42-58; Slotkin, 121.

9 For an example of this fantasy, see Revision of the Patent Law, 28.

10 This was an association Clemens ambiguously established earlier in the novel, when Hank explains to Morgan le Fay that nineteenth-century capital punishment practices are more just than the sixth-century's versions (A Connecticut Yankee, 207, 216). His critique of sixth-century justice ambiguously aligns him with advocates of electric execution.

11A Connecticut Yankee, 355.

12 For a description of Henry's death and Samuel Clemens's reaction, see Lauber, 10. For more on how the violence in the novel might represent humorous, toned-down descriptions of medieval violence, see Fulton, 35 – 38.

13 On late-nineteenth-century anxieties about communicable disease, see Wald, 68–113.

Works Cited

  1. Top of page
  2. Electrifying Camelot
  3. Connections and Disconnections
  4. End Notes
  5. Works Cited
  • Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward: 2000-1887. Intr. Walter James Miller. New York : Penguin Putnam, 2000.
  • Bird, John. Mark Twain and Metaphor. Columbia : Missouri UP, 2007.
  • Budd, Louis J. Mark Twain: The Contemporary Reviews. Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 1999.
  • Camfield, Gregg. Sentimental Twain: Samuel Clemens in the Maze of Moral Philosophy. Philadelphia : Pennsylvania UP, 1994.
  • Cox, James M. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: The Machinery of Self-Preservation. The Yale Review 50 (1960): 89-102.
  • Edison, Thomas Alva. Electricity Man's Slave. Scientific American 21 Mar 1885: 185.
  • Electric Lighting in New York: Supplement. Harper's Weekly. 27 Jul 1889: 601-604.
  • Electrical Resistance. New York Times (16 Jul 1882): 4.
  • Electricity in War. The Electrical Age. 24 Apr 1897: 263.
  • Franklin, H. Bruce. Traveling in Time with Mark Twain. American Literature and Science. Ed. Robert J.Scholnick. Louisville : Kentucky UP, 1992: 156-171.
  • Fulton, Joe B. Mark Twain in the Margins: The Quarry Farm Marginalia and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Tuscalossa : Alabama UP, 2000.
  • Gardiner, Jane. ‘A More Splendid Necromancy’: Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee and the Electrical Revolution. Studies in the Novel 19.4 (1987): 448-458.
  • Halliday, Sam. History, ‘Civilization,’ and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. A Companion to Mark Twain. Eds. PeterMessent and Louis J.Budd. Malden , MA : Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2005.
  • Howells, William Dean. My Mark Twain: Reminiscences and Criticisms. Baton Rouge : Louisiana State UP, 1967.
  • Hughes, Thomas Parke. Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins UP, 1983.
  • Knoper, Randall. Acting Naturally: Mark Twain in the Culture of Performance. Berkeley : California UP, 1995.
  • Lauber, John. The Inventions of Mark Twain. New York : Hill and Wang, 1990.
  • Lerer, Seth. Hello, Dude: Philology, Performance, and Technology in Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee. American Literary History 15.3 (Fall 2003): 476.
  • Marx, Leo. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. New York : Oxford UP, 1964.
  • Michelson, Bruce. Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self. Amherst : Massachusetts UP, 1995.
  • Morris, Christopher D. The Deconstruction of the Enlightenment in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 39.2 (Summer 2009): 159185.
  • Nature of Electricity. The Youth's Companion 61.6 (9 Feb 1888): 70.
  • Nye, David E. Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880-1940. Cambridge : MIT Press, 1997.
  • Pfitzer, Gregory M. ‘Iron Dudes and White Savages in Camelot’: The Influence of Dime-Novel Sensationalism on Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. American Literary Realism 27.1 (Fall 1994): 42-58.
  • Raiding the Overhead Lines. Electric Power 1.5 (May 1889): 109.
  • Revision of the Patent Law Proposed by the National Electric Light Association. Baltimore : William K. Boyle & Son, Printers, 1887.
  • Seltzer, Mark. Bodies and Machines. New York : Routledge, 1992.
  • Shulman, Robert. The War Machine in the Garden: Capitalism, Republicanism, and Protestant Character Structure in A Connecticut Yankee. Social Criticism and Nineteenth-Century American Fictions. Columbia : Missouri UP, 1987.
  • Slotkin, Richard. Mark Twain's Frontier, Hank Morgan's Last Stand. Mark Twain: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Eric J.Sundquist. Englewood Cliffs , NJ : Prentice Hall, 1994: 113-28.
  • Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. 1889. Rpt. in the Oxford Mark Twain . Ed. Shelley FisherFishkin. Oxford : Oxford UP, 1996.
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