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Charlotte Brontë at the Anthropocene
Charlotte Brontë at the Anthropocene
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Shawna Ross - Author
SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 320 pages
Release Date: September 2020
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-7987-3



Forges a fresh interpretation of Charlotte Brontë’s oeuvre as a response to ecological instability.

In this book, Shawna Ross argues that Charlotte Brontë was an attentive witness of the Anthropocene and created one of the first literary ecosystems animated by human-caused environmental change. Brontë combined her personal experiences, scientific knowledge, and narrative skills to document environmental change in her representations of moorlands, valleys, villages, and towns, and the processes that disrupted them, including extinction, deforestation, industrialization, and urbanization. Juxtaposing close readings of Brontë’s fiction with Victorian and contemporary science writing, as well as with the writings of Brontë’s family members, Ross reveals the importance of storytelling for understanding how human behaviors contribute to environmental instability and why we resist changing our destructive habits. Ultimately, Brontë’s lifelong engagement with the nonhuman world offers five powerful strategies for coping with ecological crises: to witness destruction carefully, to write about it unflinchingly, to apply those experiences by questioning and redefining toxic definitions of the human, and to mourn the dead, all without forgetting to tend the living.

“Brontë’s protagonists are canaries in the coal mine of the Anthropocene, barometers whose experiences register multiple temporal scales of anthropogenic change, from the murky depths of geological deep time to the prehistoric processes by which humans began to reshape their environments permanently, including their degradation of forested uplands to produce the moors the Brontë family are all known for depicting. This book is a tour-de-force, a deeply theoretical exploration of the Brontës’—especially Charlotte’s—fiction in relation to concepts from deep time to ghost forests to the ecology of bogs.” — Deborah Denenholz Morse, coeditor of A Companion to the Brontës

Shawna Ross is Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M University. She is the author and editor of several books, including Humans at Work in the Digital Age: Forms of Digital Textual Labor.

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