Past Event

Jayne Hildebrand - Novel Environments: Science, Description, and Victorian Fiction

February 26, 2024
6:15 PM - 7:45 PM
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Online and in-person: Heyman Center (Second Floor Common Room), Columbia University, New York

Event Description

Novel Environments: Science, Description, and Victorian Fiction recovers the scientific vocabulary the Victorians used to name the surroundings of living organisms. The word "environment" dominates our own way of speaking about the nonhuman world, but nineteenth-century scientific writers and novelists availed themselves of a richer conceptual lexicon, which included "environment" along with less familiar concepts such as "milieu," "medium," and "circumstance." Jayne Hildebrand traces the development of Victorian environmental thought from the earliest theorization of physical surroundings as a dynamic influence in the life sciences, through the idea of a singular "medium" in mid-century organicism, to the conception of the planet as an environmental system at the fin-de-siècle. By showing how novelistic description helped to produce the modern environment concept, Hildebrand sheds new light on the relationship between Victorian literature and the life sciences and reveals how literary form has shaped the ecological ideas through which we apprehend the nonhuman world.

Event Speaker

Jayne Hildebrand, Assistant Professor of English at Barnard College

Event Information

Free and open to the public; registration required for in-person and online attendance. For more information, please visit the event webpage or email [email protected]. Please visit the Heyman’s Center website for directions. 

Hosted by the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.