The Cylinder investigates the surprising proliferation of cylindrical objects in the nineteenth century, such as steam engines, phographs, paramas, rotary printing presses, silos, safety locks, and many more. Examining this phemen through the lens of kinematics, the science of forcing motion, Helmut Muller-Sievers provides a new view of the history of mechanics and of the culture of the industrial revolution, including its literature that focuses on the metaphysics and aesthetics of motion. Muller-Sievers explores how nineteenth-century prose falls in with the specific rhythm of cylindrical machinery, re-imagines the curvature of cylindrical spaces, and conjoins narrative progress and reflection in a single stylistic motion. Illuminating the intersection of engineering, culture, and literature, he argues for a concept of culture that includes an epoch's relation to the motion of its machines.
Helmut Muller-Sievers is Director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts and Eaton Professor of Humanities and Arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His previous books include Self-Generation: Biology, Philosophy, and Literature around 1800.