ENGL 529 A: Topics In Nineteenth-Century Studies

Becoming Species: Re-Reading Victorian Literature & Science in the Anthropocene

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
PAR 306
Jesse Oak Taylor
Jesse Oak Taylor

Additional Details:

The Anthropocene, a proposed new geologic epoch defined by the legibility of human action in the stratigraphic record, has proven a stimulating, engaging, and at times incendiary concept in the humanities, forcing historians, anthropologists, philosophers, and literary scholars to re-think their objects of study and the connections between human and natural history. In this course, we will consider the implications of the Anthropocene from (and for) an earlier moment in intellectual history that forced thinkers, artists, scientists, and authors to confront a similar breach between humans an nonhuman nature: Darwinian evolution. Many of the key debates raised by the Anthropocene, most notably the problematic necessity of thinking the human as a species, but also the encounter with deep time, world-altering technology, capital accumulation, environmental pollution, and extinction, re-visit and re-figure Victorian debates around the same questions. Thus, our inquiry will take up not only the question of what insights Victorian evolutionary debates offer us as inhabitants of the Anthropocene, but also the methodological challenges raised by such retrospective reading practices. In the process, we will engage current debates in Victorian studies, literary studies, and the humanities more broadly about presentism, form, and the work of history.

Readings will include selections from the writings of Victorian scientists such Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, T. H. Huxley, Herbert Spencer, and G. H. Lewes, Victorian authors such as Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Samuel Butler, Ella Hepworth-Dixon, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alice Meynell, and H. G. Wells, and contemporary critics, theorists and scientists such as Jane Bennett, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Terrance Deacon, Manuel De Landa, Elizabeth Grocsz, Caroline Levine, Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin, Jason Moore, Rob Nixon, and Jan Zalasiewicz.

Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:41pm