Living coal : Robert Boyle, John Holland, and the bodily passages of chimney sweep literature, 1684-1824
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This project attends to a body of literature that registers the extraordinary and tragic effects of chimneys infused with living coal upon young chimney sweeps. In so doing, I show how writers, especially John Holland, registered the dynamic interrelationship between chimney sweeps, chimneys and coal as bodily passages. To assist our imagining of these bodily passages, I adapt Edward Casey’s logic of place and Stacy Alaimo’s concept of “transcorporeality” in order to make sense of the material exchange between the child-sweeps and the lively matter of and within the chimneys. Together, place-thinking and transcorporeality help us see the way in which dwelling within toxic places might involve processes of what Rob Nixon has called “slow violence,” a violence often culminating in the spectacular erasure of bodies. In turn, I hope to contribute to a fuller understanding of what it means to live firmly emplaced in the environment in which we dwell.