Inventing Tomorrow: H. G. Wells and the Twentieth Century


Product Details

Columbia University Press
Publish Date
6.3 X 1.3 X 9.3 inches | 1.6 pounds

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About the Author

Sarah Cole is Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature and dean of humanities at Columbia University. She is the author of Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War (2003) and At the Violet Hour: Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland (2012).


An important new evaluation of H.G. Wells.--Maya Jasanoff "Wall Street Journal "
Sarah Cole transforms our view of H. G. Wells, not only seeing him as a pivotal figure in his own world but also, with subtlety and conviction, connecting him with his modernist contemporaries. Wells emerges in this detailed, cogent, and incisive study as a complex and fascinating thinker filled with contradictions, combining moral force with artistic restlessness. He was headstrong, engaged, combative, innovative, industrious, fearless, and prophetic. Inventing Tomorrow does justice to his vast range of work while emphasizing how Wells must be placed at the core of any consideration of intellectual life in the early twentieth century.--Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn: A Novel
What if modernism met up with antimodernism, like matter and antimatter? In Sarah Cole's fascinating and ambitious new study, she argues that H. G. Wells's work was at once modernist and itself a critique of modernism, an explosive mix whose significance was missed both by his contemporaries and by literary critics who have taken his rivals at their word and mistaken their jealousy at his popularity for judgment of his merit.--Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States
Sarah Cole restores a colossus to size, recovering the enormous importance of H. G. Wells in the literary and cultural history of a century that seems, until now, to have left him behind. No longer. Written with synoptic power and narrative flair, synthesizing an extensive archive of print and film, Inventing Tomorrow splendidly establishes Wells not just as a figure of primary importance, but as an attractive, indeed fascinating, imaginative personality.--Vincent Sherry, Howard Nemerov Professor in the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis
Full of illuminating argument, fresh perception, and lively polemic, Inventing Tomorrow makes an overwhelming case for the twenty-first century rediscovery of H. G. Wells.--Patrick Parrinder, University of Reading
From the prehistoric to the posthuman, from the microcosmic to the cosmic, Wells wrote about everything under the twentieth-century sun. To see why he was the indispensable writer of the last century, we need a guide as skilled and authoritative as Sarah Cole, who gives to readers an eloquent vindication of modernism's forgotten man.--Jed Esty, author of Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development
Sarah Cole's fascinating literary investigation Inventing Tomorrow shows how H. G. Wells's work is relevant and meaningful today. . . . The book's scholarship combines literary criticism with biographical elements, explaining how Wells mixed details of his own life and his modernist philosophy into his work.--Foreword Reviews (starred review)
Cole documents a thorough and thoughtful appreciation of Well's accomplishments and skills as a writer to argue for a revised estimate of his body of work.--Library Journal
Cole adroitly captures Wells, from his mould-breaking books (such as the 1895 science-fiction classic The Time Machine and 1920 Outline of History) to his unlikely intellectual kinship with subtle modernists such as Virginia Woolf.--Nature
[H.G. Wells] emerges from this wide-ranging account as a passionate and persistent advocate of social change, and of literature's capacity to shape it.--The Economist
Inclusive, capacious, infectiously energetic work...Inventing Tomorrow is an invitation well worth taking up.--Politics / Letters
While never ignoring untenable views about race and eugenics, [Cole] sees the point of him, saluting his humor and his relation to the world that formed him. Any subsequent work on Wells will have to take her as its starting point.--D. J. Taylor "Wall Street Journal "
Cole's dense, erudite and wide-ranging account demonstrates the grand sweep of his interests and ambitions.--Times Higher Education
[Cole's] ingenious recasting of Wells as a dissident modernist seems likely to prove influential.--Times Literary Supplement
A sympathetic and informative exploration of Wells as a writer and thinker.--Spiked