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'Probable Exhaustion': Empire's Environments and the Poetics of Extraction
thesisposted on 01.08.2021, 00:00 authored by Corbin Hiday
‘Probable Exhaustion’: Empire’s Environments and the Poetics of Extraction traces the entwinement of progress and exhaustion across a series of novels after the rise of fossil capitalism. My project intervenes into a broader conversation regarding cultural representation and catastrophe, positing that ever since the bourgeois novel emerged as the privileged site of cultural production and capitalist extraction became globalized through empire, fictions have also registered ecological threats. Thus, a prehistory of environmental degradation reveals the Victorian infrastructure of capitalist, imperial, and ecological crises. Such an enduring problematic, I argue, necessitates an expanded temporal frame, and the global scale of environmental crisis requires a transnational archive. Ultimately, I demonstrate how Victorians like George Eliot and Emily Brontë to early-South African writers like Peter Abrahams and Caribbean writers like Sam Selvon tempered the bourgeois imagination of progress with powerful images of destruction and loss, opening to the unexpected ways that fossil modernity has simultaneously acknowledged and repressed its own inevitable exhaustion.