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The World in Mind: Women Writers, Improvement, and Environmental Thought

Neal, Harriet (2019) The World in Mind: Women Writers, Improvement, and Environmental Thought. PhD thesis, University of York.

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HNeal_The World In Mind.pdf - Examined Thesis (PDF)
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The object-oriented ontology that has dominated recent Romantic ecocriticism has largely focused on male writers such as William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley, noting that these writers’ treatment of the perception of natural objects leads to emotional relations with nature. The main aim of this thesis is to explore the ways in which women writers applied science of mind to nature and in doing so responded ecologically to industrialisation and the ideology of improvement. I suggest, through my exploration of Anna Letitia Barbauld, Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Hamilton, Maria Edgeworth, and Mary Shelley, that it is possible to understand the shift from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century, from early resistance to industrialisation on ecological grounds and the questioning of perfect knowledge, to support for schemes of industrial improvement, as connected to different uses of science of mind, fading rational dissenting culture, and increasing commercial interests. This thesis covers ideas including landscape aesthetics, wastelands, deforestation, bogs, biodiversity, natural diet, and animal welfare, both abroad and in the homelands of the English, Scottish, and Irish writers concerned. Narratively, I suggest that ideas regarding habitual devotion and the “web” of relations between human and non-human nature were conceptualised by Barbauld in the late eighteenth century, continued by Wollstonecraft in the 1790s, and Shelley and Edgeworth into the 1830s. Overall, this thesis suggests that these writers offer important contributions to current ecocritical discourse, particularly regarding conceptions of human and non-human relations, benevolence, and species preservation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Dr Harriet Neal
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2020 17:39
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2020 17:39
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/26697

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