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The (Re)Production Craze: Taylorism, the Modern American Family, and Non-Progressive Narratives in Edith Wharton's Late Fiction

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Author: Durkin, Katelyn
Advisor: Dawson, Melanie, 1967-
Committee Members: Morse, Deborah Denenholz, 1949-; Putzi, Jennifer; Nelson, Scott Reynolds
Issued Date: 7/18/2012
Subjects: Edith Wharton
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10288/16777
Description: Popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the American passion for productivity was affirmed by Frederick Winslow Taylor's 1911 book The Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor anticipated diverse applications of his theory in his introduction to The Principles of Scientific Management, declaring, "The same principles [of industrial management] can be applied with equal force to all social activities,"� and naming home management, charity work, and education among the areas where scientific management could be useful (8). Taylor therefore envisioned a world in which productivity is the standard for all human activity, in which human minds and bodies must be as productive as machines. In Twilight Sleep and other late novels, Wharton presents Taylorized societies in which all facets of family life are reducible to a mechanical scale: human bodies function as machines, family homes as factories, and relationships as business arrangements. For Wharton's characters, the production craze is not a culturally imposed value, but an internalized, psychologically powerful, and even unconscious motivator. By depicting the disastrous consequences of this production for both individuals and the family as a whole, Wharton contests Taylor's recommendation for the indiscriminate application of industrial standards to private life and his implicit assumption that production begets progress, demonstrating instead that the production craze motivates pernicious, individualist behaviors that wreck family unity and paradoxically thwart individual success.
Degree: Bachelors of Arts in English

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