Pollution, Animals and the Wilderness: an ecocritical approach to Romantic Dickens
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This dissertation discusses examples of ecological consciousness within the Romantic aspects of Dickens’s works and demonstrates the importance of nature within his narratives. The study is organised into three chapters: 1. Pollution, 2. Animals and 3. American wilderness. Chapter one examines the theme of pollution by using Our Mutual Friend (1865), Bleak House (1853), A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and The Uncommercial Traveller (1875) and shows how both moral and environmental degradation is a key trope within Dickens. It also demonstrates that nature, even at its most exhausted, can still provide a tutelary influence. These ideas are compared with and contrasted to poets such as Blake and Wordsworth, and extrapolated through key environmental ideals such as recycling and the search for renewable energies. Chapter two uses opposing stances within animal studies, the etic and emic portrayal of animals, and shows how Dickens illustrates both these views through the texts Oliver Twist (1838), Barnaby Rudge (1841), Dombey and Son (1848) and Bleak House. It shows how Romantic ideas surrounding animals influenced the Victorian perception of them and explores what effect this has on the characterisation of creatures such as Bulls-eye and Diogenes and the metaphoric use of birds. Chapter three returns to the roots of ecocriticism by exploring the themes of wilderness and freedom in Dickens’s American texts American Notes (1842) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1844). By comparing these texts to such Romantics as Felicia Dorothea Hemans and Henry David Thoreau, and using the critical analysis of such philosophers as Heidegger, this dissertation demonstrates the importance of Dickens’s American texts in the wider fields of international Green Studies. This study argues that nature in all its forms is an important component to Dickens’s texts, one which can be understood not only as a Romantic legacy, but also as important to the contemporary understanding of ecocriticism.
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