The smoke-laden fog of London is one of the most vivid elements in English literature, richly suggestive and blurring boundaries between nature and society in compelling ways. In The Sky of Our Manufacture, Jesse Oak Taylor uses the many depictions of the London fog in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novel to explore the emergence of anthropogenic climate change. In the process, Taylor argues for the importance of fiction in understanding climatic shifts, environmental pollution, and ecological collapse.
The London fog earned the portmanteau "smog" in 1905, a significant recognition of what was arguably the first instance of a climatic phenomenon manufactured by modern industry. Tracing the path to this awareness opens a critical vantage point on the Anthropocene, a new geologic age in which the transformation of humanity into a climate-changing force has not only altered our physical atmosphere but imbued it with new meanings. Sky of Our Manufacture examines enduringly popular works – from the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, and the Sherlock Holmes mysteries to works by Joseph Conrad and Virginia Woolf – alongside newspaper cartoons, scientific writings, and meteorological technologies to reveal a fascinating relationship between our cultural climate and the sky overhead.
"Taylor's book has an astonishing breadth of reference, from Punch to scientific papers to canonical literature to children's stories. The richness of nineteenth-century literature and society discussed here is tremendous, and the readings are wonderfully nuanced and illuminating. One of the most impressive books of ecocriticism I've read to date."
– Greg Garrard, University of British Columbia, editor of The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism
"Taylor's masterful book vastly extends the scope of ecocriticism. Through deft analyses of Victorian and early modern texts, he proposes changes to our understanding of narrative and its relation to the 'natural world. His theoretical command and textual virtuosity produce a vibrant and compelling argument about how climate constructs narrative and about how readers and writers alike, construct climate. This is a must read."
– Karen S. Chase Levenson, University of Virginia. author of The Victorians and Old Age
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Jesse Oak Taylor is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Washington and the coauthor, with Daniel C. Taylor and Carl E. Taylor, of Empowerment on an Unstable Planet: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change.