This new mechanical writing style differed from the older romantic style in a couple of key ways:
- it emphasized identical, interchangeable parts, arranged not according to some intrinsic, holistic logic but to an artificial, rational and efficient scheme
- it focused not on an emotional relationship with surfaces but on a rational, content-based understanding of internal structures
- it celebrated the human power to manipulate and transform the environment
- it figured the writer as an engineer rather than an artist
This emphasis on mechanics, rationality, and component parts led to a wide variety of results. Housewives became "homemaker engineers in efficient domestic factories;" Sinclair Lewis wrote of machines as predators and assembly lines as death camps; Bellamy, Henry James, and Veblen indicted social waste and instability; Frederick Taylor's time and motion studies served as models of style and texture for William Carlos Williams and TS Eliot; Henry Adams was not afraid of technology but excited about engineering; Dos Passos and Hemingway developed machine-inspired prose styles; and, of course, William Carlos Williams made machines out of words.
While Tichi sets up more of a high/low divide than she probably intended (or maybe I just pulled out the names I knew?) and likely needs more historical context, her book serves a similar purpose to Terry Smith's: showing how technology and culture, together, created the modern era.