Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Time Travel is orgasmic bliss in your armchair

Jacques Coulardeau at (21)

Dr Jacques Coulardeau

University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne
University of Paris Dauphine*

Université Paris Dauphine
Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne

Herbert Georges Wells (1866-1946) witnessed eighty years of our developing industrial world during which all basic productive activities bloomed to produce our present mass consumer society based on mass production and the industrial and agricultural, financial, services, communications, entertainment and labor mass markets. He witnessed the growth of the two extreme ideologies produced by this industrial world, communism (or Stalinism) and Nazism (or fascism). He also witnessed the development of biology and particularly Darwinism and his evolution of species, the survival of the fittest, and the birth and elaboration of the theory of relativity and the physics that emerged from it or at the same time. Finally, he witnessed, both in Europe and the USA, the junction of the analysis of society in two antagonistic classes and their class struggle for domination, even reduced to the American simplified approach of the rich and the poor, what he calls himself the “haves” and the “have-nots” (53) on one hand, and Darwinism on the other hand. He died in 1946 after witnessing the fall of the extreme racist form of this social Darwinism (Nazism and fascism) but also the seemingly triumphant expansion of the second form of it, Stalinism.
The Time Machine was published in 1895.We should also consider Wells’ The Invisible Man (1897). Wells first warns us about the biological-and-social-danger of our social Darwinism in The Time Machine and about the plain criminal danger of the uncontrolled development of science in The Invisible Man. This cannot represent a fear of the modern world since Wells was a socialist, but the sign of an independent mind in symbiosis with a quickly changing world.

I will concentrate on the ideological message of The Time Machine along with two adaptations of this short novel to the silver screen. George Pal’s (1960) shows how the book was read before 1968, the turning point towards mass-consumerism and mass-communication. Simon Wells’ (2002) shows how it is read after the no-return turning point of globalization, September 11 and the war on terror. These two adaptations deviate from the original novella in concordance with their times. I will consider these two films in Marshall McLuhan’s perspective that states the message is the medium, which implies the meaning of the films can only be considered from the moment the films meet an audience. The audience gives meaning to the film that is nothing but a hollow shell otherwise. Note this approach is similar to Kenneth Burke’s dramatist theory. This implies that a film’s meaning will change through time along with the audience that builds meaning into the film.

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