This essay explores the airplane as modernity’s exemplary object by examining representational strategies across different media: H.G. Wells’s sci-fi novel The War in the Air (1908), Max Ernst’s collage, Untitled (Murdering Airplane) (1920), Virginia Woolf’s modernist Mrs. Dalloway (1925), and Paul Nash’s paintings of the Second World War. In each of these texts the airplane is an object of technology and a masculinized agent of forces connected to empire, threatening and disruptive, disruptive even to empire. At the same time there is in all of these artistic representations a persistent need to mitigate the airplane’s menacing potential through engendering in it a figurative animism that articulates an affiliation with not so much a spiritual realm but with the materiality of an organic realm. This material animism is borne of a nostalgic impulse seeking to return the unfamiliar anarchic object to the familiarity of the natural world, and to assuage the anxiety arising from the airplane’s participation in the spectacular and frightening potential of modernity.
"Modernity's Object: the Airplane, Masculinity and Empire,"
Criticism: Vol. 57
, Article 8.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol57/iss2/8