Abstract

Arctic voyage narratives, a popular genre of nineteenth-century writing replete with dramatic descriptions of sublime scenery and dangerous adventure, have often been read symptomatically as expressing an imperialist political unconscious. This essay argues that in the context of anthropogenic climate change, a new mode of reading becomes necessary, which would take seriously the literal meaning of the text, including its transmission of scientific data. In this regard, Victorian writing about the Arctic represents an important meeting ground for postcritical interpretation or surface reading and critical discourse around the Anthropocene: the voyage narrative often documents aesthetic experiences that are primarily located in the human body and therefore confronts questions about the relationship between the human as a biological entity and as a historical actor. Oriented by the aesthetic theories of Kant, Burke, and John Dewey, the essay explores how the important voyage narratives of the Arctic explorers Elisha Kent Kane and William Scoresby have become newly legible in light of “citizen science” and big data projects that recognize their importance for recording information about Arctic climate and biodiversity prior to large-scale anthropogenic impacts.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 1-26
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-25
Open Access
No
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