Containment Narratives: Legal and Literary Treatments of Pollution During the Victorian Fin de Siecle
Lis, Kamila, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Booth, Alison, Department of English, University of Virginia
Arata, Stephen, Department of English, University of Virginia
Cantor, Paul, Department of English, University of Virginia
“Containment Narratives: Legal and Literary Treatments of Pollution During the Victorian Fin de Siècle” argues that smoke for the late Victorians was a proxy for an unarticulated anxiety about entropic degeneracy. This underlying unease, and not any direct reaction to the phenomenon as it was actually experienced by the senses, was what shaped legal and literary reactions to airborne pollution. In replacing miasma theory, which attributed disease to vapors emanating from discrete and ultimately containable sources of organic decay, the idea of pollution disrupted the longstanding view that airborne waste could be controlled with the suggestion that it was indefatigably expansive. This shift, and the disruption it occasioned, happened at a time rife with such analogous disruptions as advances in industry and biology, as well as the sudden emergence of new areas of inquiry within the social and natural sciences, which collectively destabilized numerous conceptual categories that had previously been relied upon for their immutability. The longing for permanence that resulted surfaced in both legal and literary discussions of smoke as a move toward narrative containment.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)