The 1830s to the 1930s saw the rise of large-scale industrial mining
in the British imperial world. Elizabeth Carolyn Miller examines how
literature of this era reckoned with a new vision of civilization
where humans are dependent on finite, nonrenewable stores of earthly
resources, and traces how the threatening horizon of resource
exhaustion worked its way into narrative form.
Britain was the
first nation to transition to industry based on fossil fuels, which
put its novelists and other writers in the remarkable position of
mediating the emergence of extraction-based life. Miller looks at
works like Hard Times, The Mill on the Floss, and Sons and
Lovers, showing how the provincial realist novel’s longstanding
reliance on marriage and inheritance plots transforms against the
backdrop of exhaustion to withhold the promise of reproductive
futurity. She explores how adventure stories like Treasure Island and
Heart of Darkness reorient fictional space toward the resource
frontier. And she shows how utopian and fantasy works like “Sultana’s
Dream,” The Time Machine, and The Hobbit offer
imaginative ways of envisioning energy beyond extractivism.
book reveals how an era marked by violent mineral resource rushes
gave rise to literary forms and genres that extend extractivism as a
mode of environmental understanding.