Victorians’ views of water and its role in how the social fabric of Victorian Britain was imagined

Water matters like few other substances in people’s daily lives. In the nineteenth century, it left its traces on politics, urban reform, and societal divisions, as well as on conceptualizations of gender roles. Drawing on the methodology of material ecocriticism, Ursula Kluwick’s Haunting Ecologies argues that Victorian Britons were keenly aware of aquatic agency, recognizing water as an active force with the ability to infiltrate bodies and spaces.
Kluwick reads works by canonical writers such as Braddon, Dickens, Stoker, and George Eliot alongside sanitary reform discourse, court cases, journalistic articles, satirical cartoons, technical drawings, paintings, and maps. This wide-ranging study sheds new light on Victorian-era anxieties about water contamination as well as on how certain wet landscapes such as sewers, rivers, and marshes became associated with moral corruption and crime. Applying ideas from the field of blue humanities to nineteenth-century texts, Haunting Ecologies argues for the relevance of realism as an Anthropocene form.
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