Date of Degree

9-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor

Alexander Schlutz

Committee Members

Alan Vardy

Joan Richardson

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature

Keywords

ecology, materialism, evolution, science, animal studies, aesthetics

Abstract

My dissertation traces the vibrant interchange between Romantic literature and science in the nineteenth century that necessitated new forms of aesthetics. I argue that Romantic writers and scientists co-created a new way of understanding nature that moved away from hierarchical anthropocentrism toward what I call “posthuman ecology.” This work explores shared scientific, literary, and philosophical sources for Erasmus and Charles Darwin, Mary and Percy Shelley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Emily Dickinson. I connect aesthetic innovation to ethics to ask more broadly how literature can provide an affective and effective space to represent and engage scientific discourse. I conclude that understanding the historical shift in both literature and science toward the development of ecology in the nineteenth century is vital to our ability to respond to our own contemporary environmental crises.

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