This essay is about oceans in one of Mary Shelley’s non-canonical works, Maurice, or the Fisher’s Cot: A Tale (1820), and the relatedness of humans to their ocean environments; it’s also about Shelley’s representations of those rich and diverse life-forms that populate the edge between sea and land-mass and within what ecologists refer to as an “ecotone.” By characterising the ocean as an ecotone in Maurice, Shelley makes explicit a more eco-conscious way of understanding the nature/culture dichotomy and in terms that directly involve the shifting boundaries between land and sea, saltwater and freshwater, human and animal. This English Romantic novelist stresses the mutual interconnections among these seemingly disparate entities to show how they live and thrive in a horizontal relation to one another. Maurice, I argue, fosters an ethic of ecological care and a resistance to the economic forms of exchange that alienate humans from the natural world, and contributes usefully to the burgeoning field of oceanic studies.

Author Biography

Colin Carman, Ph.D., is an Instructor of English at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado. After teaching at Colby College in Maine, he served as a Mayers Fellow at the Huntington Library in California. He has contributed to two book collections, Romantic Ecocriticism: Origins and Legacies (2016) and The Brokeback Book: From Story to Cultural Phenomenon (2011). His articles have appeared in European Romantic Review, GLQ, Nineteenth-Century Prose, Studies in Scottish Literature and Horror Studies. A Contributing Writer at The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, he is working on his first book on the erotic ecology of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley. He would like to dedicate this essay to Margaret H. Calta, 1918–2016.


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