WEEK 3: Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (I)

This is an open thread on Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1872). This thread will remain open until 9pm on Monday, 26 September.

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28 thoughts on “WEEK 3: Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (I)

  1. Present-day steampunks often cite the novels of Jules Verne as an important source of inspiration. But why? What’s so steampunk about Jules Verne?

    Focusing on the first fifty pages or so of Around the World in Eighty Days, record your initial impressions. How might this novel’s ideas about science, technology, progress, or power inform some of the other texts we have encountered so far? What do you think steampunk has adapted from Verne, and what has it left behind?

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    1. Jared K

      In “Around the World In Eighty Days” none of the large and impressive imaginative machines of today’s steampunk are introduced, in fact it is hard to label this novel as “Steampunk” as very little of the common themes associated with steampunk culture are present in this novel, its only link to “traditional” steampunk seeming to be its setting which is thoroughly Victorian. But looking deeper then the physical descriptions of the world leads to on strong theme that seems to be echoed through steampunk culture even existing today. That theme being the steady progress of man and machine running with the efficiency of clockwork. The protagonist of this novel Phileas Fogg being the strongest evidence of this, his personality being a blend of the ideal Victorian gentleman and traits commonly associated with machines, often times being reffed to as running on clockwork and being distant and cold. Phileas puts utter faith in mankind’s creativity and inventions and I feel this is the strongest legacy that Jules Verne left Steampunk culture being adapted into later books becoming one of the main points of the genre.

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    2. My Thanh Huynh

      When reading the first 50 pages of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eight Days, I noticed that there is a very heavy emphasis on the character building of Phileas Fogg’s. Yet we still know so little about him. I do believe that the mystery behind Jules Verne’s intent on doing so, is so that we can create a personal relationship between the characters (Phileas Fogg & Passepartout) later one as we can continue reading. One where we can make the judgements ourselves on what kind of person we believe he is to be. As per what we have learned in class I do believe that this book resembles the Steampunk genre. There are many parts in the novel where Verne brings up the importance of time, clocks, watches, such as, “it was a complicated piece of machinery that showed the hour, the minute…” (4). I feel that the heavy emphasis on time signifies the important relationship we have with technology and how we solely rely on it, making us question the power technology has on us. That brings me to the end where I believe that Phileas Fogg is not like the rest of us as he treats technology as its own entity and finds value in it, as opposed to being owned by it. Based on the first 50 pages he proves countlessly that time does not control him, instead he appreciates time, the steamboat, the train, and works with it accordingly.

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    3. Taylor McDonald

      As I read the first 50 pages of Around the World in Eighty Days what struck me most is the description of Phileas Fogg. Fogg is a man who has scheduled every moment of his day, and he follows that schedule like clockwork. Almost everything that Jules Verne uses describes Fogg’s personality could be used to describe a machine. As steampunk seeks to portray steam technology as living, breathing machines, Fogg himself could be the machine in this story. A living, breathing mix of man and machine. Additionally, Fogg seeks to impress these mechanical qualities in those around him. When his manservant was unable to adhere to the clockwork schedule Fogg place upon him, the manservant was immediately fired and replaced.
      Fogg is also described to us as a peaceful person, when Jean Passepartout is searching Fogg’s house he notes “There were no firearms in the house, no hunting guns or weapons of war. Everything indicated peaceful pursuits.”(9). Perhaps this inherent “peacefulness” is a byproduct of Fogg’s mechanical personality.
      Taken together these things create an interesting clash between man and machine. Could Verne be implying that machine is superior to man? Could this superiority of machine be something other writers in the genre adopted from Verne? It will be interesting to see how Fogg’s character is developed throughout the 80-day journey.

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  2. Lorenzo Marcil

    During the first 50 pages of the text I was struck by the initial descriptions of two particular characters. The first was Fogg, who is presented as mechanical, rigid, and even says that he will execute his travel with “mathematical precision”. Set up to oppose him is Inspector Fix, who conducts himself relying mostly on instinct and considers himself to be an artist in his job. Is Verne setting up a conflict between emotion and technology? Since steampunk celebrates artistry within technology is it odd that the most artistic and passionate character is an antagonist? Any other thoughts about Fogg and Fix?

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  3. Kelsey Jacobi

    From the start of Verne’s novel, Phileas Fogg is described as mechanical, with characteristics and descriptions comparable to machines. For example, Fogg’s actions are described to have “the precision of clockwork” (5) and to give “the impression of something perfectly calibrated and finely balanced, like a chronometer made by a master craftsman” (6). When he is on the Mongolia, Fogg “showed no more sign of emotion than the ship’s chronometers” (39), and his walking is described to be “with the mechanical precision of the seconds hand of an astronomic clock” (45). These descriptions compare Fogg and his actions to a clock or chronometer (also used to measure time), which makes sense considering Fogg is extremely precise and exact about time, always trying to stick to the same schedule just as clocks repeat the same motions, and the whole story is about time, to travel around the world in only eighty days. However, in relation to this novel as an inspiration for steampunk, there could be interesting implications that Fogg as a character mimics mechanical motions rather than the text simply focusing on actual machines or technology. For example, Blaylock’s story “Lord Kelvin’s Machine” focuses on Lord Kelvin’s machine, Narbondo’s machine to destroy the world, and St. Ives’ machine to save the day, and so machines arguably play a central role to the plot. In Verne’s novel, could Fogg be the ‘machine’ or ‘mechanical being’ central to the novel? If so, what are the implications to the novel and the steampunk genre that a mechanical human, and not a real machine, is central to the novel?

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  4. Blandon Tang

    The first chapter of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days focuses heavily on creating an air of mystery around Phileas Fogg. The reader is informed in great detail, all the unknown aspects of Fogg’s life. For instance “He was neither a factory owner, nor a businessman, nor a merchant, nor a landowner. He was not a member of…” (1) – and so forth for many paragraphs continued. Why does Verne spend so much time establishing the rather plain, yet unknown, aspect of Phileas Fogg? Is Verne simply using the plain unknown lifestyle as a foil to how odd of a scenario it is for Fogg to suddenly embark on his journey? Or is there another reason Verne chooses to describe Fogg in this manner?

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    1. My Thanh Huynh

      Hi Blandon,

      When I first read the first 50 pages I had the same questions as you in regards to why Verne would leave so much mystery in regards to who Phileas Fogg was? However, after reading further I believe it is because Verne wants the reader to create a personal relationship between the characters so that we can make the judgements ourselves on what kind of person we believe he is to be. Sounds silly but as you continue reading its actually quite astonishing that the things we learn about these characters later on, totally makes sense to how they are and why they do what they do in the beginning. Also I find that the steampunk genre in general likes to be over descriptive on everything so that as a reader we can create a bond and add value to what we are reading. This is why I also believe that this novel does represent Steampunk pretty fairly.

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  5. Jian Zhang

    Chapters one and two of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days focuses heavily on character development, respectively Phileas Fogg and his valet Mr. Passepartout. While we do not initially sense any traditional elements of steampunk within these chapters, a closer analysis serves to outline metamorphical representatives of the “steampunk” culture we know today. Phileas Fogg is described as very mechanical and precise, a personality deemed to be important in steampunk technologies and machines. Mr Passepartout seems to be quite the opposite, his major characteristics being carelessness and honesty. He seeks to claim that Phileas Fogg is “A real machine; well, I don’t mind serving a machine.” These character dynamics are interesting as it echoes the cultural aspect of steampunk we see today, namely involving an “organic” machine in the Victorian era (Phileas Fogg) with its cultural drivers and supporters (Mr. Passepartout). With these character dynamics established quite extravagantly in the initial chapters, would their sudden intentions to embark on the “Around the World in 80 days” journey allude to a grand metaphor relating to traditional steampunk elements?

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  6. Barbara Baker

    After reading the first fifty pages of Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne I think that the ideals of steampunk are personified in the protagonist, Phileas Fogg. This is first evident in Fogg’s continued association with the mechanical. He is described as giving “the impression of something perfectly calibrated and finely balanced” (Verne 6) and again as, “a person of mechanical preciseness” (6). His servant, Jean Passepartout, even expresses his excitement in “working for someone who functions like clockwork” (9).

    With this basic representation of the mechanical through Fogg, his actions thus become a comment on technology itself. The novel’s strongest relation to steampunk so far comes from how Fogg uses his machine-like personality. Fogg has a clear respect for technology in believing he can rely on it to get him around the world in eighty days (15); however, Fogg does not seem to care much for other aspects of his society. He is described as not belonging to any institutions typical of gentleman besides the Reform Club (1). It also appears that he could be the notorious bank robber that stole €55,000 from the Bank of England (12). Therefore, Fogg becomes an embodiment of how the mechanical can become badass or even revolutionary. Despite his rigid routines and level-headedness, he has embarked on a wild adventure what appears to be impulsively. This taking charge of the mechanical and turning it into something progressive is a core foundation of steampunk and so the novel aligns itself with steampunk in this way.

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  7. Stacey Haviland-Janzen

    During the first 50 pages of Around The World in 80 Days the importance of the technology of travel is obvious. The different modes of transportation available at the time—train and steamer, for example—are at the center of the text, and while the plot may focus on the action of Fogg and Passepartout’s adventure it is clear that the two main characters would accomplish nothing without this technology. I also found it quite interesting how travel technology was viewed by some of Fogg’s acquaintances. For example, when Fogg mentions that the world is no longer as large as it used to be, Gauthier Ralph follows his statement by saying that “the earth has gotten smaller because you can now travel around it ten times as quickly as a hundred years ago” (14). To me, this statement (and, well, the whole idea of being able to travel the world in 80 days) seems to show how people may have begun to perceive that the progress of technology does not just affect those who are making the progress, but rather can affect the wider world surrounding them and the way that people are connected. I think this idea could definitely have influenced later works within the steampunk genre and informed notions of the kind of power that technology could have.

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  8. Mark Taylor

    In the first fifty pages of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days, we find that the character of Passepartout carries with him a family heirloom: a watch from his great-grandfather which is “as accurate as a chronometer” (35). The machine may be accurate, but as we soon discover, it is off by two hours because the servant refuses to alter it from London time. When compared to the main character of the novel, Phileas Fogg, who is characterized as “someone who functions like clockwork” (9), what questions does this raise about the usefulness of a machine-like disposition in the face of changing circumstances? Does it give credit to the naysayers of Mr. Fogg’s journey who say that an eighty day journey around the world is only possible if no unexpected setbacks occur?

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  9. Kelsey MacQueen

    In the first fifty pages of Verne’s novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg and his companion, Passepartout, embark on their journey around the world. Yet, Fogg seems completely disinterested in the journey itself; he is “the sort of Englishman who gets his servant to do the sights for him” (33). Passepartout has the opposite attitude, “showing none of his master’s reluctance to take in the sights” (34). Passepartout also remarks that, “we’re travelling so fast that everything seems a blur” (34).

    Could Fogg’s attitude about exploration, and the speed of transportation along the journey, be considered a criticism of the way modern technology accelerates western lifestyles? Could it be a criticism of the way we see (or don’t see) the world around us as a result of this kind of lifestyle?

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  10. Jordan Scott (298234)

    I haven’t read a lot of Jules Vern (other than 50 pages of Around the World in Eighty Days) so it’s difficult to see the impact that his work has had in inspiring steampunk aesthetics. Within the first 50 pages of the book there is a heavy reliance on modern transportation technology, specifically trains and ships, to help Phileas Fogg along his journey. The technology doesn’t embody this idea of a steampunk machine as a “real, breathing, coughing, struggling and rumbling,” thing that’s a blend of art and engineering. Despite the presentation of the technology, I can see where the world of Jules Vern may have acted as a fork in the road where steampunk diverged and an alternate history was born. Within this alternate history we’d have a continuation of Victorian ideals, values, and lifestyles, at the same time as bypassing the world of petroleum products that led to a reliance on automobiles. The story, thus far, doesn’t have a strong steampunk feel, but I can see the building blocks for what would become steampunk present in the story.

    I’ve found the first fifty pages of the book surprisingly good, however I’m still waiting for the character of Phileas Fogg to bloom a little more. He has some sympathetic traits (charitable to the homeless), but within these early chapters he’s a little arrogant and a little stuffy. I’m looking forward to seeing the characters get into some problem solving conflicts. Within these first chapters things are pretty easy for Phileas and Passepartout.

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  11. In Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, a man sets out on a journey to do something completely unfeasible and hitherto impossible; he wants to go around the world in 80 days. The path around the world is broken down for us into separate parts, much like how steampunk technologies are seen as having very distinct parts with clear purpose. A steamer takes you from Suez to Bombay. A crank turns the gears. A railway takes you across America. A piston fires to give a machine life. This journey is then seen as a metaphorical machine of machines, and this venture is a test for it. Can its operator, Phileas Fogg, use this machine made up of cantankerous and inefficient parts to do something amazing?

    Phileas has complete faith in this machine despite the fact that no one else thinks it’s even remotely possible. Setting out as a Victorian rebel with nothing but his wits and his wealth, he mirrors the gentleman scientist of Lord Kelvin’s Machine.

    It seems then that the man and his machine are the key steampunk elements of this story.

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  12. Caitlyn Bennett

    As others have mentioned, central to the plot is the concept of time, in fact we know that Fogg’s entire journey hinges on the time constraint he has set for himself. Throughout the first 50 pages, time is referenced in relation to the tasks completed, “He took lunch and dinner at the club like clockwork” (3),
    Fogg gets his hat and “Puts it on his head with the precision of clockwork” (5).
    The electric clocks in Fogg’s house are noted (8) the watches of both Fogg and Passepartout are pointed out, and even the “Magnificent clock above the cash desk” (11) is pointed out which seems like an odd detail to include in a recollection of a large sum of money being stolen.

    Simply by the volume of their inclusion, and the adjectives used alongside them, it would appear that the timekeeping devices have some inherent and distinct value. Therefore, Fogg’s machinelike ability to manage time is worth noting.

    Is it possible that Verne’s most direct commitment to the Steampunk genre isn’t his inclusion of the machines that use their new unprecedented power and speed to facilitate Fogg’s quest, but rather the tying together of time and technology?
    Without a sense of time, or the previous knowledge of how long a trip would take we would have no scale by which to measure the impact that these machines have. In fact without tying the machines to Fogg’s period the gravity of their impact would be lost on us as the feats of modern machines seem so much more remarkable.

    Is this point not driven home by the assignment of the machinelike characteristics assigned to Fogg that are associated with time? His likeness to a machine and the means of transport described in the first 50 pages are impressive to his peers. The machines and clocks are also highly valued by this society as well, worth writing in to this story because of how intertwined they are with the time constraint the story hinges upon.

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  13. Tiana Charlebois

    In the first 50 pages of Around the World in Eighty Days, there are certain aspects of Steampunk found. The focus on the machines is quite evident as Phileas Fogg is going to rely on the machines for travel. It also has many instances where it points out the Victorian aesthetics that Steampunk has brought up in former pieces we have read.
    The one point I found interesting is how Passepartout is dead set on his family heirloom watch being correct in time whereas Phileas Fogg is set that the clock is wrong as he sticks to time as he is described as being mechanical and precise. Another was when Passepartout did not change the time as they are travelling which makes me wonder if he does this because he trusts the machine to be correct (i.e. don’t fix it if it’s not broken type mindset).
    Some questions to think of are:
    1. Do you think the time of the family heirloom (and Passepartout not changing it) will be influential later in the novel?
    2. Did they simply bring up the watch as a means to portray the love for technology that steampunk has?
    3. Can it point to the character differences in Fogg being mechanically precise versus Passepartout being not as precise?

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  14. Danielle Hillje

    “Steampunk”, as we have encountered in James Blaylock’s “Lord Kelvin’s Machine”, claims that 19th century technology can perform tasks that modern readers would think impossible. Lord Kelvin’s machine, for example, can – through unexplained scientific advancement – reverse the polarity of the Earth (27). Blaylock creates an imaginary machine to achieve this impossible task, but does the above definition of “steampunk” hinge on the creation of fictitious 19th century machines? Claiming Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days as an early “steampunk” novel argues that creating the machines is not as important as the impossible function of “steampunk” technology.

    Verne claims that 19th century methods of transportation can accomplish an impossible feat. Our protagonist, Mr. Phineas Fogg, claims that it is “Quite possible” (14) to traverse the whole world in only 80 days by steamer and rail (13). The machines Fogg proposes to use are ordinary methods of transportation for the 19th century, and have (to the reader’s knowledge) not been tampered with or enhanced in any way. Verne leads the reader to believe, along with Fogg’s companions (15), that this trip is impossible. Standing in for Verne’s 19th century audience, Fogg’s critics claim that “it was absurd, [and] impossible[…] that a tour of the world could be made, except theoretically and on paper, in this minimum of time, and with the existing means of travelling” (20). Even Foggs supporters “dwindled more and more, [as] everybody was going against him” (22). Through his protagonist, Verne establishes the possibility that 19th century machines are capable of traversing distances in an impossible timeframe, but does Fogg’s belief in the feats of technology make Around the World in 80 Days a “steampunk” novel? Or does the novel’s categorization as “steampunk” hinge on the success or failure of Mr. Phineas Fogg’s tour?

    Works Cited
    Blaylock, James. “Lord Kelvin’s Machine.” Steampunk. Eds. Ann and Jeff Vandermeer. Tachyon Publications, 2008. 17-52. Print.
    Verne, Jules. Around the World in 80 Days. Trans. George Towle. New York: The Modern Library, 2004. Print.

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  15. David Poeung

    As of the first 50 pages of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, protagonist Phileas Fogg has embarked on a trip to circumnavigate the world within eighty days through the use of various means of transportation. During this part of text, various technologies, in particular vehicular technologies, are presented and lauded as being highly precise and efficient. Fogg himself is also often compared to clockwork due to his methodical, efficient, and highly scheduled nature. In fact, the crux of his bet seems to be his belief that sufficiently efficient systems will always perform perfectly regardless of any outside circumstances. This seems to be in stark contrast to the opinions presented in the manifesto, “What Then, is Steampunk?”, which asserts that steampunk machines must be concrete, living, and fallible. Yet, Around the World in Eighty Days is often cited as a highly influential work in the steampunk genre despite proposing the antithesis. As such, is Around the World in Eighty Days really steampunk, or is the manifesto’s definition too limited? What truly separates steampunk from a general Victorian-era adventure story with a focus on technology? And can we really accurately assign the genre of steampunk and its values, which was created and developed in the 1980’s, to a work that was written over a century earlier?

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  16. Ashley Dhillon

    After reading the first fifty pages of Around the World in Eighty Days, I found the book to start off by introducing us to the protagonist Phileas Fogg. It starts off with “nothing was known expect that he was the most courteous of men and one of the most handsome gentlemen in English high society.”(1) The description of him shows this steampunk view of what one would look like in the Victorian lifestyle and the way he is described as well his traits are seen as very close to technology based on the quote “Phileas Fogg was a person of mathematical preciseness, someone who never rushed but always ready, always economical in his movements.” (6) There is an emphasis on technology within the book as well, through the use of travel and the modes of travel that are done for example the train and the steamboat. As I would still label the novel to be stream punk because even though the technology isn’t as impressive as what we have been discussing, there is still this Victorian theme behind it and the technology we have been introduced to. Another importance that I have seen to relate to the steam punk genre is the emphasis on time and clocks that is presented within the introduction of the protagonist so far which seems to be Phileas Fogg. In all I believe these themes of steam punk are within the protagonist and the power that technology has over Fogg and how he uses it in his daily routines.

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  17. Andrea Williamson

    After reading the first 50 pages of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Day’s, my initial thoughts were that this novel isn’t representative of steampunk at all, as it didn’t seem to have many of the same elements as the other texts we have read thus far this semester. However, upon close reading, I began to look at things deeper level. I noticed that this novel seems to portray a binary opposition – Phileas representing precision, and the world in which he operates representing spontaneity and uncertainty. These two ideas are then tied together by Phileas’ sheer certainty that he will be able to make these two polar opposites work together to achieve his goal. I feel as though this contrast, or perhaps Phileas Fogg himself, is a representation of steampunk – a genre that seeks to combine the complex specifics of engineering with the reckless abandon of art. So while this novel isn’t iconically steampunk, with the grotesque, powerful descriptions of machines and the like, I feel as though Phileas Fogg’s belief that he can travel the world in 80 days against all odds is what makes it steampunk. Do you feel the same way, or do you feel as though it does share similarities with the other texts we have read?

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  18. Mollie Grill-Donovan

    Other than being set in Victorian times and published in 1874, the first fifty pages of Around the World in Eighty Days seems to have little to do with steampunk as defined in “What then, Is Steampunk?” The technology utilized thus far have only been trains and a propellor driven steamer, which was merely the technology available at the time and does not seem to fit the definition of steampunk. Others have mentioned the correlation of Phileas Fogg to that of a clock, or a machine which fits well with the idea that “steampunk machines are real, breathing…parts of the world” (Catastrophone 4), thus indicating that Phileas is something of personification of a steampunk machine. But what of the stoic and gentlemanly nature of Phileas Fogg that is counterintuitive to this idea of “hulking manifestation of muscle and mind” (Catastrophone 4). Arguably this is where Passepartout comes in, he has “powerful muscles and an immense strength” (Verne 7) that Phileas lacks, but lacks the methodical mechanical nature that Phileas embodies. When combined together they personify steampunk, that “seamless paradox between the practical and the fanciful” (Catastrophone 5).

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  19. Oliver Kingsley

    Reading the first fifty pages of Verne’s novel has made me think a lot about the texts we have so far and how they have shared many of the same traits as a detective fiction story.

    First is the use of a mysterious protagonist. Whether it be Phileas Fogg or Sherlock Holmes, both characters are introduced with a sense of mystery surrounding them. Whilst we do receive plenty of information regarding Fogg’s appearance and lifestyle, I felt as if there was always something more going on inside his mind. We are able to tell that he is a smart calculating man through the daily chores that he undertakes. He can tell when water is not at the exact temperature desired and is very crafty when finding the fastest/ most efficient route.

    This has got me thinking if there is a connection between the two genres, especially because of the robbery aspect of the story.

    Do you agree?

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  20. Emily McKay

    When reading the first 50 pages of “Around the World in Eighty Days,” I found many aspects that inspired the steampunk genre as seen today. I think the way the characters where introduced is a great example of this. Phileas Fogg himself may not fill the definition of Steampunk, but I think steampunk is evident in the way Jules Verne describes his habits. As I read the first few chapters I found an almost robotic feeling of the way Fogg lives day to day. I also found when introduced to Passepartout, the characters had different qualities that were pined against each other. From the first descriptions of the characters it is seen that were Fogg is robotic and repetitive in his live, where everything happens at the same time in the same way everyday, Passepartout’s life has been full of many adventures and a lack of similarity, being artistic as I am I found this notion resembling art in an interesting way. To me this indicates a relationship between technology and art that Steampunk enthusiasts connect with. Another example of Steampunk found in the book is the relationship between the victorian lifestyle of Fogg and his sudden leap into adventure, which is carried out on technologically advanced trains and steamers. I think Verne’s language used so far in this book is really what characterizes it as a Steampunk inspirational text. I believe a lot of the descriptions used for events and people in the text is what has been used by todays Steampunk authors for inspiration.

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  21. Jason Kadar

    Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days contains similar visuals as depicted in James P. Blaylock’s Lord Kelvin’s Machine. Both pieces use Victorian visuals such as waistcoats, trains and flying machines; however, Around the World in Eighty Days seems to lack some of the classic characteristics of the steampunk genre. Around the World in Eighty Days does not have the artistic descriptions of technology nor does it have the personification of technology that is common in steampunk. In fact, Around the World in Eighty Days seems to embody the definition of steampunk that Steampunk Magazine denounces in “What then, is Steampunk?” that is, “dressed-up, recreationary nostalgia: the stifling tea-rooms of Victorian imperialists and faded maps of colonial hubris.” Do you think Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days would be recognized as steampunk to current steampunk members? Perhaps Around the World in Eighty Days would be celebrated for outlining the Victorian atmosphere which was later built upon by people like Blaylock. Do you think that Blaylock was inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days?

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  22. Song Dayoung

    In the first fifty pages of Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg is described as a man who does everything according to a set time schedule which is made out by himself, no exception, even seems to be absolute. It makes him look like a “machine” that does not make any mistakes. In his journey, “Absolutely nothing interested him”(45). Fogg even seems as ‘high technological computer’. He said, “’This delay would not have disrupted in the least the organization of my timetable,’ ‘I have been careful to take into account the possibility of encountering certain obstacles’”(50). The initial parts of the novel are telling readers that you may have full of trust of machines that help Fogg to complete his journey. As the page of 44, 45 said: “Nowadays steamboats speed up and down the Indus and the Ganges, and thanks to a railway that crosses the whole width of India, with branch lines along its route, the journey from Bombay to Calcutta now only takes three days”. However, Fogg’s servant Jean Passepartout is not like his master. Jean is an imprudent and curious person that could ‘threaten the journey to endanger’(47). Also, appearance of Fix who wants to arrest Fogg on suspicion of theft could make Fogg’s timetable become useless. If steampunk is ‘living, breathing, aging, dying’, it couldn’t be perfect in all ways just as human being. Although “the train had left at the scheduled time”(49), what will happen later in this adventure that makes Fogg be a “living and breathing” human?

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  23. Sergey Pismarkin

    Based off the first 50 or so pages of Around the World in Eighty Days, I had found a distinct absence of anything really substantial that instantly popped out at you as “Authentic” Steampunk. You really needed to look in between the lines to get a sense of what could be the start of an inspiration for the genre. For instance when I read it I noticed the comparisons of Phileas Fogg to a machine, as he had run like clockwork, living, breathing, and yet always on time and very methodical in his approaches. This of course being a stark contrast to the everyday person. This machine like approach was in fact so strange that it ended up in Fogg being named a crook rather than the established gentlemen that he was (perhaps this became and inspiration of the the punk aspect of Steampunk). I had also noticed that there was this idea of wanting a quiet life expressed at the start of the book by Passepartout which was inevitably thrown out the window almost entirely. This I believe could signify Steampunk’s aversion from the norm. That if you (or the machines you create) can be seen as mobile and living that, that in essence is Steampunk, and anything that is sedentary in nature, or could be seen as sedentary (no matter how eloquent and advanced it may be) is not and cannot be Steampunk.

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  24. Kate Anderson

    Around the World in Eighty Days is set in Victorian England, the age of history that inspired steampunk. Our protagonist is an English Gentleman, and his world is powered by steam. It’s the time of steamboats and trains, yet the retrofuturism that steampunk builds on is missing in Jules Verne’s novel. Or, at least, it seems to be.

    I tried to dig a bit deeper when looking for elements of steampunk, and what I finally settled on is the discussion on what it means to be human. In the first 50 pages, I was immediately struck with the idea that Phineas Fogg is a kind of machine himself; an automaton, if you will. He’s programmed into a schedule, values efficiency and punctuality, and finds it difficult to interact with “normal” people. He’s a machine in human skin; not apart from his society, but not a part of it either. People are constantly comparing him to inanimate objects, like wax figures, and descriptions of him are scattered with words like ‘measured,’ ‘clockwork,’ and ‘mathematical,’ words that echo computers and gears and whirling machines. Shortly after we are introduced to our automaton, however, we arrive at the start of all good cyborg stories– the Fogg machine goes against his programming. He abandons his routine, and sets out on a whirlwind adventure, competing against the clock he’s so fond of to circumvent the globe.

    Since we are just focusing on the first part of the story, I won’t go into a great deal of detail. However, as the story progress, Fogg the machine is constantly pushing his limits, testing out what it means to be human; trying out spontaneity for a change, working around barriers to his quest with logic and luck in equal measure, finding friendship and love, and even (le gasp!) being late. Even if Fogg isn’t actually a true machine, there are clear parallels that study the concept of humantity, the machine, the human machine, and the mechanical human. That, I think, is what is so steampunk about this story. Present day steampunk seems to make the distinction between human and machine sharper and more obvious to enhance contrast and make people see the point clearly. It’s left behind the subtlety that Verne used for a more direct approach. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I can appreciate a quiet hint as much as a punch to the face.

    Am I just crazy? Did anyone else imagine Fogg as a literal machine when they were reading?

    Liked by 2 people

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