Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation argues that models of approaching environmental crisis in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century British literature have been obscured by a false, mid-twentieth century, American-centered genealogy of environmentalism. As Victorian scientists made discoveries about deep time, entropy, and tidal drag, scientific and popular writers in the following decades came to terms with ideas about an earth made unfit for human existence and humans’ imminent extinction. Writers grappled with feelings of loss and grief, and they felt disoriented by time scales and energetic processes that were beyond the scope of a single human life. This overwhelming information required them to take a position that is in marked contrast to the totalizing colonial view from afar— the point of view required of the map-maker, the racial scientist, and the armchair explorer. Instead, they had to begin to make sense of the whole from the inside; that is, to understand gigantic time scales, distances, and energetic processes from a disoriented, limited point of view. Responding to impending environmental catastrophe from an awestruck, overwhelmed space—a space that, as this dissertation will show, is often more accessible to women—produces ethical aesthetic positions that we might be attentive to today in facing our current environmental crisis.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

J. D. Brown

Committee Members

Melanie Micir, Anca Parvulescu, William McKelvy, Rachel G. Smith,


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