Spring 2019

After Nature: Victorian Literature and the Environment

, 4 pts, UN3252


With our present realities of climate change and ecological crisis in the background, this course returns to a major inflection point in humanity’s relationship with the natural world: the British nineteenth century. We’ll examine Victorian ideas about (and representations of) nature and the environment that continue to inform our own. We’ll look at different senses of “nature” as a source aesthetic wonder and moral value, and as a zone of alterity and violence: “red in tooth and claw.” We’ll consider advances in, and literary responses to, sciences like geology, evolutionary biology, and climatology that remain vital for understanding humanity’s roles and effects in the natural world. We’ll read about how human activity was seen as entangled with nature as an extractable resource and sink for waste products, both in Britain and across the territories of its empire. Finally, we’ll contemplate alternative visions of human/nature interaction: rural landscapes that nostalgically record vanishing ways of life; and apocalyptic visions that look ahead to a world actually existing “after nature.” Readings include novels (Dickens, Hardy, Haggard), poetry (Wordsworth, Clare, Tennyson, the Brownings, Hopkins, Emily Brontë), scientific writing (Lyell, Darwin, Huxley, Somerville), art criticism (Ruskin), and social theory (Mayhew, Mill).

Section Number
Call Number
Day, Time & Location
M 4:10PM-6:00PM 401 Hamilton Hall
Daniel Williams