Beyond the Tangled Bank: Posthuman Ecosystems in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
AuthorLyons, Emily Renee
AdvisorRaval, Suresh S.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 04-May-2020
AbstractThe first generation of humans to live in a world indelibly marked by industrialism came of age in the nineteenth century. Industrialism set a pace of rapid social, economic, and environmental change that would come to define the Victorian era, and that would reverberate from England throughout the entire world. The advances of the period that afforded insights into the connections between the macro and the micro in physics, biology, geology, and other branches of the natural sciences, as well as the networks of trade and communication being laid down across the globe as part of the project of imperialist expansion and exploitation, all called new attention to the entangled relations of humans, human-created institutions and technologies, and nonhuman nature. The nineteenth-century British texts that are the subject of this study engage with these entangled relations in ways that call into question what it means to be human. Since the poststructuralist turn, scholarly work on the Victorian era touching questions of human subjectivity has often emphasized how the dominant power structures of the nineteenth century—white heteropatriarchy, industrial capitalism, and imperialism—upheld a model of human subjective measured against the standard of the white able-bodied man of property, and heavily invested in enforcing rigid hierarchies of race, class, and gender. I argue that the works of literature in this study demonstrate that the category of the human has not been so narrowly defined and fixed in the Victorian imagination as has previously been supposed, but is instead profoundly unstable and porous. Human subjectivity in these texts emerges from non-linear, non-hierarchical networked relations among human and nonhuman agents, forming what I term “posthuman ecosystems.” These Victorian examples prefigure posthumanist and ecocritical discourse of the anthropocene.
Degree ProgramGraduate College