The history of the novel must be re-thought in light of the emergence of the Anthropocene. The period associated with the “rise of the novel” in the eighteenth and nineteenth century dovetails with the emergence of industrial capitalism, the shift to fossil fuels, and European imperialism, all of which are now recognized as key elements in the scaling-up of human activity to planetary scale. It also aligns with the emergence of modern geology and the stratigraphic method currently being used to date the Anthropocene as a formal epoch on the geologic time scale (GTS). Thus, if the Anthropocene presents the work of the novel “after nature” it also represents the state of nature “after” the novel. This convergence suggests that the rise of the novel may also mark the birth of the Anthropocene. It also raises troubling questions about whether such coincidence may in fact reveal complicity. To what degree is the novel itself bound up in the forces responsible for drawing the Holocene to a close? What does it mean to re-visit the history of the novel as an “end-Holocene” genre, and what would that designation suggest about the genre’s viability in the epoch to come? This article takes up these questions through a reading of Richard Jefferies’s After London, or Wild England (1885) as a formative instance of “cli fi” that explicitly disavows the designation of “novel” in favor of “romance.” In the process, it argues for a more historically expansive conception of cli fi, and points to potential intersections between ecocriticism, textual studies, and book history.
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