Industrial Specters of Nineteenth-Century Literature: Mills, Ports, and Mines
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Industrial Specters of Nineteenth-Century Literature: Mills, Ports, and Mines


"Industrial Specters of Nineteenth-Century Literature: Mills, Ports, and Mines" argues that the century's transition to steam power resulted in authors grappling with the lingering presence of industrial pollution. In order to depict the particulate dangers born out of industrialization, authors came to include spectral figures within their realist texts; often, the specter appears at the moment when individual characters merge with nearly invisible dangers. By bringing together scholarship on environmental risk and spectrality, the project consistently contends that the specter is an appropriate figure for portraying particulate hazards, since apparitions often function as imitations or shadows of other entities. The specter also lingers, like industrial pollution itself, as a reminder of uneven environmental risk. My dissertation includes three chapters, each showing the abundance of nineteenth-century fiction with haunting descriptions of unique industrial dangers: the polluted air of mills, the hazardous water of ports, and the contaminated soil of mines. In each, the specter takes on the form of the polluted space: the first chapter includes air specters; the second chapter adds water specters to the project; the third chapter includes the metallic specter. Each chapter either begins or ends with John Ruskin's proto-environmentalist works, which describe the spectral components of these three industrial locales. In addition to Ruskin, each chapter is comprised of a constellation of nineteenth-century literature with settings in Britain, the United States, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, illustrating that these industrial locations form a trans-imperial, interconnected production network of extraction, transportation, and manufacturing. By the end of the project, I show that these spectral, industrial locales are fully interconnected; describing these entanglements through hauntings makes visible the accumulated particulate hazards that cause further harm.

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