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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access June 15, 2019

Aquatic Matter: Water in Victorian Fiction

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From the journal Open Cultural Studies


This essay looks at water in Victorian fiction and argues that it is important not just as motif or symbol—which is how literary criticism has traditionally approached it—but as a metamorphic substance. I propose a material ecocritical framework in order to conceptualise water as literary matter, and I analyse selected passages from four canonical Victorian novels through a focus on aquatic materialisation and transformation. I argue that through the emphasis on these processes in a variety of water scenes from Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Lady Audley’s Secret, and Dracula, water emerges as not inert but agential. Through a material ecocritical approach which rejects intentionality as a precondition of agency, representations of nature as animate can be reconceived as not necessarily anthropomorphic or as instances of the pathetic fallacy, but as bearing witness to how agency is shared by humans and their environment.

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Received: 2018-09-30
Accepted: 2019-02-13
Published Online: 2019-06-15
Published in Print: 2019-01-01

© 2019 Ursula Kluwick, published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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