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We hurtle together into the future at ever-increasing speed — or so it seems to the collective psyche. Perpetually evolving, morphing, building and demolishing, rethinking, reframing and reshaping the world around and ahead — and the people within it — an emerging, planetary-wide Civilization is our grand, global, collective endeavour. Never before in human history have so many people been so interconnected, and so interdependent. Ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from our great collective achievements to our ruinous collective failings, Civilization: The Way We Live Now explores the complexity of contemporary civilization through the rich, nuanced language of photography.

Visually epic, Civilization is presented through eight thematic chapters, each featuring powerful imagery and accompanied by provocative essays, quotes, and concise statements by the artists themselves.

Carl Rollyson

This ambitious publication is accompanied by an internationally touring exhibition produced by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography — a global cultural event for a global subject. The pages zing with photographs, many previously unpublished, from leading photographers. It seems to have been generally recognized not only by Trollope himself but by his reviewers that the novelist was writing in a different strain than in previous work, in his effort to represent something that he saw as new and different in his culture and society. Both the subject matter and the satiric mood of The Way We Live Now strike many present-day readers as modern.

Trollope, like Sontag after him, was documenting his cultural moment. The year must have seemed to Trollope like the breaking of a cultural wave that had been swelling since earlier in the century. The most likely original might be the Irish financier and M. In the novel, rumor hints that Melmotte is really the son of an Irish-American forger named Melmody. The Way We Live Now is not only a topical but also a prescient book, detecting the contemporary speculative ambiance that will only months later culminate in international economic panic. When Trollope began his novel in May of , the Panic of that began later that year was still months away in England, although the Vienna Stock Exchange began its crash on 9 May Hall, Biography ; Kindleberger Trollope finished the novel between July and December of ; he was thus still writing The Way We Live Now during the Panic of the early fall of Melmotte, in contrast, is treated in part sympathetically, as an outsider who tries to enter the upper reaches of English society by appealing to its greed.

The individual acts in isolation. All of the other resonant moral stances in the novel are taken in relation to romantic love or friendship. Hurtle and the pressure upon Hetta to marry her much older kinsman Roger is a commensurate moral decision in the private sphere. In the face of this commodifying of human beings, The Way We Live Now most prizes the complexity and possibility of private human relationships.

This intense valuing of private life, evocative of what later would be associated with the Bloomsbury ethos, resonates in the Sontag story.

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Trollope is trying to find a way forward that validates his reformist work. He, like Sontag in the late twentieth century, is trying to find a new form in which to represent a moment of moral crisis, and he is ultimately unhappy with the satiric genre.


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The only admirable religious figure in the novel, the Anglican Bishop Yeld, speaks nearly these very same words in chapter 55 of the novel. Trollope wants to progress from the way we live now, but his only solutions in this novel are in private life. He effects a kind of compromise between past and future in the marriage of Paul and Hetta. Paul has stood up to Melmotte and Hetta to her mother and her importunate kinsman Roger, as the young couple fight for their love. Paul renounces his previous romance with the fascinating American beauty Mrs.

Hurtle, a whirlwind love affair born of the excitement of modern travel and consummated upon a transcontinental railway, an instance of unstable erotic desire as a part of the way we live now. They retreat to Carbury Manor with Roger as avuncular protector rather than remain in the metropole to reform England and the Empire from the center of power.

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Thus, just as Trollope got settled into his sociable life of London clubs and dinner-parties in , he wrote a satire of the very urban society in which he now resided. It is a world in which the only kindnesses seem to be between individuals, and the only refuge from inauthenticity is in the sustaining private life—especially romantic love, but also, on occasion, friendship. For a moment, however, in The Way We Live Now —as Trollope surveys the urban scene of which he has so recently become a denizen—he can only imagine and represent a society in which the defiance of individual love and faith keeps alive the hope of a wider dispensation.

Deborah Denenholz Morse is the Vera W. Morse, Deborah Denenholz.