Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Verne, 1870)

March 28, 2008

Classic science fiction novel by Jules Verne that has been adapted in a number of other underwater mediations.

One of the things that strikes me, reading this from a media studies perspective, is the key role that electricity plays in the wonder and spectacle of the undersea vessel, the Nautilus. Captain Nemo explains the workings of the Nautilus (in a chapter titled “All by Electricity”:

“There is a powerful agent, obedient,rapid, easy, which conforms to every use, and reigns supreme on board my vessel. Everything is done by means of it. It lights it, warms it, and is the soul of my mechanical apparatus. This agent is electricity” (79).

At the same time as undersea exploration is aligned closely with (and only made possible by) a new technology, it resembles the shape of a whale, and is animal-like in many ways.

Some film adaptations: Georges Melies in 1907, Stuart Paton in 1916, Richard Fleischer (and Walt Disney) in 1954, and Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. (animated) in 1973.