Chaos and Cosmos: Literary Roots of Modern Ecology in the British Nineteenth Century

Chaos and Cosmos: Literary Roots of Modern Ecology in the British Nineteenth Century

by Heidi C. M. Scott

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In Chaos and Cosmos, Heidi Scott integrates literary readings with contemporary ecological methods to investigate two essential and contrasting paradigms of nature that scientific ecology continues to debate: chaos and balance. Ecological literature of the Romantic and Victorian eras uses environmental chaos and the figure of the balanced microcosm as tropes essential to understanding natural patterns, and these eras were the first to reflect upon the ecological degradations of the Industrial Revolution. Chaos and Cosmos contends that the seed of imagination that would enable a scientist to study a lake as a microcosmic world at the formal, empirical level was sown by Romantic and Victorian poets who consciously drew a sphere around their perceptions in order to make sense of spots of time and place amid the globalizing modern world.

This study’s interest goes beyond likening literary tropes to scientific aesthetics; it aims to theorize the interdisciplinary history of the concepts that underlie our scientific understanding of modern nature. Paradigmatic ecological ideas such as ecosystems, succession dynamics, punctuated equilibrium, and climate change are shown to have a literary foundation that preceded their status as theories in science. This book represents an elevation of the prospects of ecocriticism toward fully developed interdisciplinary potentials of literary ecology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780271065366
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication date: 08/20/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Heidi C. M. Scott is Assistant Professor of English at Florida International University.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Beyond the Dichotomy 1

Part 1 Chaos 17

1 Romantic Chaos: Natural Patterns Disturbed 19

2 Victorian Chaos: Industrial Disruptions 45

3 Today's Science Nonfiction 73

Part 2 Microcosm 89

4 Romantic Microcosms: Brain Worlds 91

5 Victorian Microcosms: Domestic Systems 118

6 Today's Scientific Modeling 141

Part 3 Keats And Ecology: A Case Study 153

7 The Literary Empiricist 155

8 Hyperion: The Chaos of Tartarus 164

9 Microcosmic Odes 176

Epilogue 190

Works Consulted 195

Index 203

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