"And Science will Know To-morrow": An Exploration of Rudyard Kipling's "Wireless"

Title"And Science will Know To-morrow": An Exploration of Rudyard Kipling's "Wireless"
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2024
AuthorsDavydov, L
Conference NameHamSCI Workshop 2024
Date Published03/2024
Conference LocationCleveland, OH

Written in 1902, Rudyard Kipling's short story "Wireless" juxtaposes early exercises in short-wave radio transmission with Victorian spiritualism. It tells a dual account of a misdirected "transmissions" as one man's interception of wireless telegraph signals plays out alongside seeming instant of spiritual possession. While the supernatural element of the story remains ambiguous--and receives a curt dismissal from the narrative's suspected medium himself--the "Marconi experiment" playing out in the background has long proven an intriguing element of the narrative. For those familiar with much earlier proposed theories of animal magnetism upon which seances often rested, wireless technology could readily be read as keeping in step with popular theories of the era eventually discarded as pseudoscience. In this talk, I will look to the how Kipling presents a story in which radio is superimposed upon the pre-existing "scientific" paradigms of mesmeric models of psychical phenomena--exploring how Marconi's cutting edge experiments might be read by an audience primed to believe in very different sorts of waves and forces.

Refereed DesignationNon-Refereed