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Ecological FormSystem and Aesthetics in the Age of Empire$
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Nathan K. Hensley and Philip Steer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823282128

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823282128.001.0001

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Signatures of the Carboniferous The Literary Forms of Coal

Signatures of the Carboniferous The Literary Forms of Coal

(p.63) Chapter 3 Signatures of the Carboniferous The Literary Forms of Coal
Ecological Form

Nathan K. Hensley

Philip Steer

Fordham University Press

This essay revises existing accounts of the Victorian novel by locating it within the coal-powered energy system that increasingly made it possible. Revisiting our most familiar accounts of mediation, we explore how coal energy might be visible in cultural productions unable or unwilling to engage this system, as a system, directly. Through readings of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and Cranford, J. R. Seeley’s The Expansion of England, and Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo, we argue that “coal form” can be glimpsed in texts that imagine the transgression of bounded systems of belonging, and in formal affinities across what otherwise seem discrete categories of genre and geography. Ultimately, this analysis suggests that coal has also infused, invisibly yet pervasively, some of our most enduring categories of criticism as well.

Keywords:   coal, Conrad, Joseph, Cranford, Expansion of England, The, Gaskell, Elizabeth, Jameson, Fredric, mediation, North and South, Nostromo, Seeley, J. R

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