Pascale M. Manning, “‘There is nothing human in nature’: Denying the Anthropocene in Richard Jefferies” (pp. 473–501)
This essay contends that the work of the nineteenth-century British writer and naturalist Richard Jefferies embodies both a recognition and a radical denial of the Anthropocene, expressing a nascent form of the ambivalence that stalks our contemporary recognitions and misrecognitions of the human in/and nature. Drawing upon a range of Jefferies’s writings—both his essays and his autobiography in addition to his fiction—it argues that there exists in Jefferies’s work a recurring vein of anti-ecological thought, particularly evidenced in the way it frequently depicts strict boundary lines, whether between agricultural and urban spaces, between civilization and wild nature, or between the human and the natural world. Taking issue with recent ecocritical accounts of Jefferies’s post-apocalyptic novel After London (1885), this essay rereads Jefferies’s novel in light of the wider range of his writings to argue that it is most usefully read not as a proto-ecological rebuke to the unsustainability of human agro-industrial practices, nor as a prophetic evocation of a world re-greened by the collapse of those practices, but rather as the irresolute culmination of a career spent both testifying to the essential inviolability of nature and bearing witness to the mounting evidence of anthropogenic rupture.