Industry and environmental violence in the early Victorian novel: pastoral re-visions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


While industrial activity has long characterised the countryside, pastoral’s tendency to idealise and valorise farming life often pushes other forms of economic activity to the representational peripheries. Although predominantly focused on the social life of the countryside, Victorian novels do, however, show some interest in industry, industrial workers, and labour migrations, as well as the environmental impacts of mining, quarrying, smelting, and milling. Examining relevant depictions from Harriet Martineau’s Deerbrook (1839), Benjamin Disraeli’s Sybil (1845), Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley (1849), and George Eliot’s Adam Bede (1859), this chapter explores issues of environmental and social injustice, adapting Timothy Morton’s concept of agrilogistics, and thinking through Anthropocene concerns about slow violence, demographics, and resources. At the same time this chapter will situate representations of rural industry in pastoral contexts in order to examine whether they replicate or complicate the inherent division in traditional pastoral between urban and rural. This chapter will argue that these texts largely reflect a process by which the division between urban and rural was being placed under strain, and often rendered meaningless, by the expansion into the countryside of intensified capitalist networks of environmental violence and technological control.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Literature and Politics of the Environment
Subtitle of host publicationEssays and Studies 2023
EditorsJohn Parham
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell and Brewer Ltd
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781805430735, 9781805430742
ISBN (Print)9781843846970
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Publication series

NameEssays and Studies
PublisherD. S. Brewer


  • environment
  • pastoral
  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Harriet Martineau
  • George Eliot
  • Benjamin Disraeli
  • industry
  • environmental violence
  • ecocriticism
  • Victorian literature

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