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Literary Criticism Semiotics & Theory

Ecological Form

System and Aesthetics in the Age of Empire

contributions by Nathan K. Hensley, Philip Steer, Lynn Voskuil, Jesse Oak Taylor, Teresa Shewry, Aaron Rosenberg, Benjamin Morgan, Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, Deanna K. Kreisel, Adam Grener, Sukanya Banerjee & Monique Allewaert

afterword by Karen Pinkus

Fordham University Press
Initial publish date
Dec 2018
Semiotics & Theory, Ecology, 19th Century
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2018
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2018
    List Price

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Ecological Form brings together leading voices in nineteenth-century ecocriticism to suture the lingering divide between postcolonial and ecocritical approaches. Together, these essays show how Victorian thinkers used aesthetic form to engage problems of system, interconnection, and dispossession that remain our own. The authors reconsider Victorian literary structures in light of environmental catastrophe; coordinate “natural” questions with sociopolitical ones; and underscore the category of form as a means for generating environmental—and therefore political—knowledge. Moving from the elegy and the industrial novel to the utopian romance, the scientific treatise, and beyond, Ecological Form demonstrates how nineteenth-century thinkers conceptualized the circuits of extraction and violence linking Britain to its global network. Yet the book’s most pressing argument is that this past thought can be a resource for reimagining the present.

About the authors

Nathan K. Hensley is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University. He is the author of Forms of Empire: The Poetics of Victorian Sovereignty (2016).

Nathan K. Hensley's profile page

Philip Steer is Senior Lecturer in English at Massey University. His current book project is “Borders of Britishness: The Novel and Political Economy in the Victorian Settler Empire.”

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Karen Pinkus is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. She is the author of Fuel: A Speculative Dictionary (2016), Alchemical Mercury: A Theory of Ambivalence (2009), The Montesi Scandal: The Death of Wilma Montesi and the Birth of the Paparazzi in Fellini’s Rome (2003), Picturing Silence: Emblem, Language, Counter- Reformation Materiality (1996), and Bodily Regimes: Italian Advertising Under Fascism (1995).

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Lynn Voskuil is Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston. She is the author of Acting Naturally: Victorian Theatricality and Authenticity (2004) and editor of Nineteenth- Century Energies: Literature, Technology, Culture (2016).

Lynn Voskuil's profile page

Jesse Oak Taylor is Associate Professor of English at the University of Washington. He is the author of The Sky of Our Manufacture: The London Fog in British Fiction from Dickens to Woolf (2016) and coeditor of Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times (2017).

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Teresa Shewry is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Hope at Sea: Possible Ecologies in Oceanic Literature (2015) and coeditor of Environmental Criticism for the Twenty- First Century (2011).

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Aaron Rosenberg is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at King’s College London. His current book project is “Scale, Modernity, and the Novel: From Realism to the Genres of Deep Time.”

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Benjamin Morgan is Associate Professor of English Language at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Outward Mind: Materialist Aesthetics in Victorian Science and Literature (2017).

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Elizabeth Carolyn Miller is Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print Culture (2013) and Framed: The New Woman Criminal in British Culture at the Fin de Siècle (2008).

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Deanna K. Kreisel is Associate Professor of English at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of Economic Woman: Demand, Gender, and Narrative Closure in Eliot and Hardy (2012).

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Adam Grener is Lecturer in English at Victoria University of Wellington. His current book project is “Improbable Realism: Chance, the Rise of Statistics, and the Nineteenth- Century British Novel.”

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Sukanya Banerjee is Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. She is the author of Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in the Late- Victorian Empire (2010) and coeditor of New Routes for Diaspora Studies (2012).

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Monique Allewaert is Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Ariel’s Ecology: Personhood and Colonialism in the American Tropics, 1760–1820 (2013).

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Editorial Reviews

The editors have organized Ecological Form in a way that makes it into a syllabus: the categories of Method, Form, Scale, and Futures could structure a semester, and the range of literary forms—the novel, poetry, drama, and non-fiction prose--and earthly objects—indigo, water, coal, electricity--would take students across a startling range of Victorian texts and eco-political issues. A brilliant collection for researchers as well, the essays in this collection avoid the clichés of the “Anthropocene” to take a much harder look at what nineteenth-century texts and their authors were thinking about the earth and its possible and impossible futures.---Elaine Freedgood, New York University,

Ecological Form convenes many exciting voices in a powerful demonstration of approaches now animating nineteenth-century ecocriticism. Yet this luminous collection, scrupulously edited and beautifully produced, is less invested in cordoning off another subfield than in challenging us to steep Victorian scholarship and pedagogy whole cloth with the concepts and concerns of ecological thinking understood in resolutely global terms.

Nineteenth-Century Contexts elegant and deeply considered ensemble of essays, each deftly argued and rigorously researched...

Resurgence Magazine

This invaluable collection of essays, edited with a marvelous introduction by Philip Steer and Nathan K. Hensley, urges us to reconsider a diverse array of (mostly) nineteenth-century texts in light of the global environmental crisis often known as the “Anthropocene.” …[A]ll of the essays, in different ways, examine their chosen texts not so much for their overt environmental content or thematics...but for the ways in which that sense of unfolding catastrophe posed profound representational challenges and demanded new ways of organizing and representing human experience.---Allen MacDuffie, author of Victorian Literature, Energy, and the Ecological Imagination, in Nineteenth-Century Literature,

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