A natural history of literary time : temporality and environment in nineteenth-century American literature
- A Natural History of Literary Time argues for the determining force of conceptions of time—both literary and scientific—on the shape of environmental knowledge and representation. It does so by investigating three temporalities central to environmental representation in nineteenth-century American literature: geologic time, regressive time, and static time. As forms of aesthetic time management, these temporal modes resist the progressive logic of national time even as they often serve to authorize national progress in a century that witnessed dramatic changes in the country's shape and size, as well as its "natural" spaces. Balancing historical and theoretical claims, this dissertation argues that the temporalized forms for representing the "natural" world that developed during the republic's first century established strategies for American environmental representation whose effects resonate in contemporary environmental culture and politics. In chapters on geologic time, regressive time, and static time, I uncover how literary and scientific ideas about time inform knowledge of human and nonhuman agency, causality, and affect, while simultaneously inflecting formal literary techniques such as genre, description, and style. The first chapter interlinks James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Frank Norris, and William Dean Howells to uncover theories of regressive time in the neglected genre of the natural resource novel. The second chapter juxtaposes transcendentalists, such as Emerson and Thoreau, with John Kirk Townsend and Stephen Crane—two very different kinds of naturalist—to find concepts of static time at work in techniques of literary description and in a questioning of the human/nonhuman binary. The final chapter on geologic time brings the sentimentalism of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Stoddard, and Harriet Jacobs into conversation with the pioneering environmental science of George Perkins Marsh, revealing the challenges to intentional human agency posed by the expansive timeframes of geology.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, English Department.
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Department of English.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
- © 2017 by Sylvan Boise Goldberg
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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