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The Politics of Place and Early Environmental Justice. Ecocritical Theory and Practice
Victorian Ecocriticism: The Politics of Place and Early Environmental Justice aims to take up the challenge that Lawrence Buell lays out in The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination (2005). Buell decries: "For in order to bring `environmental justice into ecocriticism,' a few more articles or conference sessions won't suffice. There must be `a fundamental rethinking and reworking of the field as a whole'" (Buell 113). While discussions about nature conservation and preservation have been important within the context of ecocriticism, Buell asserts that the holy grail for the field is actually how literary critics engage in discourse about questions of place as space humanized for the purpose of tracing, disclosing, and advancing the important issue of environmental justice-as it applies to human beings, animals, and plants. The "fundamental reworking" or shift in the field of Victorian Studies really has to do with the dearth of ecocritical publishing about seminal authors and literary texts. Victorian Ecocriticism aims to participate in filling that vacuum, lack, or lacuna by featuring current research about the Victorian era from an ecocritical perspective.
Victorian Ecocriticism hopes to identify, establish, and organize its content based on six themes: Ecocrisis, Ecofeminism, Ecogothicism, Ecohistoricism, Ecotheology, and Ecological Interdependence. The edited collection, thus, has two aims. First, selected places among others featured in the edition will provide environmental contexts, often with political implications: American rural landscape (e.g., Walden Pond), Australian mines, British hill-country, metropolis, mill towns, the sea, and the woods. Second, the edition includes discussions about various instances of early environmental justice evident during the mid-nineteenth century such as, but not limited to: anti-railway campaigns, biological egalitarianism, labor disputes due to adverse working conditions, patterns of displacement, reactions to Victorian scientism, resistance to enclosure, and working class education.
Victorian Ecocriticism is an interdisciplinary edition. It focuses on Victorian literature as the foundational discipline linked to various disciplines such as ecology, evolutionary biology, natural history, and soil science. The topics are wide-ranging, significant, and contemporary discussing the politics of place as well as early environmental justice.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
This collection of nine essays by a range of international scholars (supplemented with Hall's helpful introduction) represents a substantial contribution to the growing body of ecocriticism focused on Victorian literature. Hall (California State Polytechnic, Pomona) takes up where he left off in his edited collection Romantic Ecocriticism: Origins and Legacies (CH, Dec'16, 54-1607), beginning with an essay on Wordsworth and the preservation of the English Lake District and going on to essays on Charlotte Bronte, Dickens, Hardy, and Trollope, among others. The volume is narrower in focus than Victorian Writers and the Environment, ed. by Laurence Mazzeno and Ronald Morrison (2017), but it complements that volume by focusing squarely on the significance of place and environmental justice in Victorian literature broadly defined, with about half the essays examining environmental conditions in Australia, Newfoundland, and the US. Though informed by recent ecocritical theory, the essays are accessible to serious readers. Highlights include Marlee Fuhrmann's provocative essay "Seeing Soils," which considers Thoreau and Frank Norris; Akemi Yoshida's eco-theological reading of Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies; and Michelle Deininger and Natalie Rose Cox's eco-gothic reading of Elizabeth Gaskell's short fiction. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduates through faculty. * CHOICE * Breaking new ground with innovative ecocritical approaches to key Victorian-period texts from across the British Empire, Dewey Hall's new collection of ten sharp, theoretically engaged essays by early and established scholars from the U.S., UK, and Japan shows how ecological theories of place and belonging produce and are produced by questions of environmental justice--a timely and important contribution to our historical understanding of the role that literature played in the emergence of these two crucial modern environmental concepts. -- Drew Hubbell, Susquehanna University Victorian Ecocriticism: The Politics of Place and Early Environmental Justice offers a fascinating variety of perspectives upon the representation of place in Victorian literature. This engaging and eclectic collection of essays is distinctive in its focus upon themes of environmental justice that exemplify the social engagement of Victorian authors in their depiction of natural landscapes and human communities throughout the English-speaking world: from the British Isles to Australia, Newfoundland, and America. Each of these essays offers a fresh and original approach to understanding Victorian literature from an ecocritical point of view. -- James McKusick, University of Missouri-Kansas City