Deanna Kreisel – “The Future and its Discontents: Eco-Time in Three Victorian Texts”
The question of how (or why, or whether) to commingle queer theory and ecocriticism has become an urgent concern for many theorists writing in the wake of Timothy Morton’s 2010 PMLA essay “Queer Ecology.” While Greg Garrard, for example, thinks that queer theory needs ecocriticism in order to avoid theoretical bankruptcy and irrelevance, Jordy Rosenberg argues exactly the opposite, warning that certain versions of eco-theory are guilty of promulgating “a primitivist fantasy that hinges on the violent erasure of the social: the conjuring of a realm—an ‘ancestral realm’—that exists in the present, but in parallax to historical time.” This talk will develop Rosenberg’s analysis by taking up the question of eco-queer futurity in three emblematic Victorian texts: Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights, Matthew Arnold’s 1867 poem “Dover Beach,” and Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “Binsey Poplars” (1879). Each of these works embodies an iteration of queerness that simultaneously challenges the hegemony of reproductive futurism described by theorists Leo Bersani and Lee Edelman and disavows the utopianist collectivity of much recent queer studies scholarship.
This talk will aim to demonstrate how eco-queer readings of these works can illuminate the clashing temporal and spatial scales at work in their deep logic, and thereby draw out their conflicted investment in nascent ideologies of economic and environmental stewardship.
Deanna Kreisel (Associate Professor, University of British Columbia) specializes in Victorian literature and culture. Her first book, Economic Woman: Demand, Gender, and Narrative Closure in Eliot and Hardy (Toronto 2012), examines how images of feminized sexuality in the mid-Victorian realist novel reflected widespread contemporary anxieties about the growth of capitalism. Kreisel is co-founder of Vcologies, an international working group of nineteenth-centuryist scholars interested in ecocriticism and environmental studies. She has published articles in PMLA, Victorian Studies, Representations, and ELH, and is currently at work on a new book on the history of the sustainability concept and utopianism in the nineteenth century.
The Georgia Colloquium in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Literature is supported by the Willson Center and by the English Department’s Rodney Baine Lecture Fund. This lecture is free and open to the public.