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Title:Science, politics, and soul-making: the Romantic encounter with climate change
Author(s):Verderame, Michael C
Director of Research:Wood, Gillen D
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wood, Gillen D
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Underwood , William (Ted) E; Markley, Robert M; Saville, Julia
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Climate change
Literature and the environment
18th century
19th century
Abstract:The Romantic movement in British literature coincided with new breakthroughs in meteorology and climatology, allowing scientists for the first time to understand the earth’s weather as a global, interactive system, as well as to begin to trace the possible influence of human civilization upon it. The end of the Little Ice Age, the acceleration of anthropogenic global warming resulting from the Industrial Revolution, and a series of volcanic eruptions causing major shocks to the global climate system all provided reference points for Romantic writers to challenge and rethink the relationship between humans and their climate. Focusing on several major writers from 1780 to 1880 (William Cowper, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, John Keats and John Ruskin), I argue that an epistemic shift occurred in the way Britons understood their own climate’s history and its relationship to the earth’s climate. Using an ecohistorical method that combines close historical inquiry and insights from meteorology, climatology, geology, and volcanology with theoretical frameworks derived from environmental criticism, I argue this period, in no small part due to the influence of creative writers, saw a new sense of the earth’s climate as contingent, dynamic, globally interconnected, and shaped by human actors, rather than stable and fixed. Finally, I apply some of the insights of these writers to the challenge of climate change in the present day, suggesting that their interrogation of the age-old binary between humanity and “Nature” can help us to chart a livable and sustainable future.
Issue Date:2017-05-09
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Michael Verderame
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-09-29
Date Deposited:2017-08

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