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Representations of Air and Other Elements in the 19th Century British Literature

Director of thesis Enit Steiner
Co-director of thesis -
Summary of thesis

What we may refer to as the British weather, in literature as in life, is strongly associated with the works of authors from the nineteenth century such as Charles Dickens and the Brontë sisters. For instance, the wind of the haunting moors in ​Wuthering Heights or the description of smog enveloping the city of London in ​Bleak House ​have become an integral part of general culture and shaped a perception of Great Britain’s landscape and atmosphere, both material and affective.

This thesis will explore how air as an element is imagined in literature written during the Victorian era and how it ​represents the relationship between nature and mankind. This period is characterised by increasing negative effects of mass industrialisation on working conditions and environment resulting in rapidly growing levels of pollution. Initial neglect of industrialisation’s negative effect on nature, human health and social structure led to an appearance of a number of legal acts destined to improve the situation. The importance of air, particularly its quality, became paramount to the health of the nation facing side-effects of machinery production.

This work will investigate, in the recently re-opened ​dialogue about our contemporary environmental sensibilities and challenges, how both of these time periods may be paralleled by their respective narratives of the experience and awareness of a changing natural environment.

Status beginning
Administrative delay for the defence 2025