Guest Editors Introduction: Victorian Ecologies
As recently as 2015 in a review essay titled ‘Where Is Victorian Ecocriticism?’, Jesse Oak Taylor was lamenting the seemingly underdeveloped ecological impulse in Victorian studies and the field’s belated turn to ecocritical frameworks that had already become commonplace in studies of Romanticism and nineteenth-century United States literature. In subsequent years, however, Victorian ecocriticism has exploded, with four special journal issues on the subject appearing in the year 2020 alone. While the vast array of work now appearing displays, like any robust ecosystem, much internal variation, in general we can characterise recent work in Victorian ecologies as possessing two features that distinguish it from ecocritical work in adjacent fields. First, Victorian ecologies as a field tends to emphasise social and anthropogenic natures and a global, imperial frame, perhaps unsurprisingly considering that Victorian Britain saw the culmination of the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of global empire to unprecedented reaches. Secondly, the field of Victorian ecologies has also shaped, and been shaped by, broader debates in Victorian studies about presentism, and it tends to have an overt interest in drawing the connections between nineteenth-century environmental changes and the many ecological emergencies we face today, including climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss, ocean acidification, and the pollution of air, water, and soil.