Caroline Levine Responds to Megan Ward

Ward points our attention to what I think is the most urgent challenge of V21’s strategic presentism—to figure out how to draw on the richness of Victorian literature to think and act politically. For her, Taylor “opens up the possibility that we can rethink twenty-first problems of climate change by practices more familiar to us from novel-reading: understanding individuals, for instance, as not only forming their environment but signifying it, like fictional characters in that they not only create but reflect meaning.” My question for Taylor and his other readers would be this: I’m very much convinced that works of art can help us to think well about climate, but once we humans are humbled by both the deep time of geology and by the vastness of the collective compared to our puny selves, how should we imagine new forms of action? What are forms of ecological citizenship in practice? Are there clues to this in Victorian fiction?

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