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By Accident or DesignWriting the Victorian Metropolis$
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Paul Fyfe

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732334.001.0001

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Introduction: A Tremendous Chapter of Accidents

Introduction: A Tremendous Chapter of Accidents

(p.1) Introduction: A Tremendous Chapter of Accidents
By Accident or Design

Paul Fyfe

Oxford University Press

In the nineteenth century, a new form of social existence came into being: the modern metropolis. As it grew in size, industrial character, and complexity, the city no longer seemed to be evidence of human design, but the aggregate of inscrutable processes. Victorians compared it to a giant organism, an atomic maelstrom, and ‘a tremendous chapter of accidents’. This introduction proposes accident as an important site of material fascination for how the Victorians came to know not only the modernizing metropolis, but the complex relations of causality and chance that influenced the century’s shift toward a probabilistic worldview. Ultimately, these dynamics among accident and design offer alternative literary histories for some of the most characteristic forms of writing about the nineteenth-century city.

Keywords:   Victorian, accidents, probability, randomness, city, metropolis, design, Darwin, literature

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