This essay considers how the representation of deep time affects, and is affected by, literary genres. It takes The Time Machine (1895) as its case study, investigating the ways in which H. G. Wells's work repurposes the conventions of the romance genre as a means of narrating expansive temporal scales that exceed the representational capacity of the realist novel. The essay's overarching suggestion is that stretching narratives to the extreme longue durée of the geologic epoch necessitates shifting away from realism, opening new possibilities for genres (including melodrama, epic, and, in this case, romance) that the realist tradition had ostensibly superseded. Understanding how the formal expansiveness of literary genres can be mobilized strategically, it concludes, affords a critical perspective for analyzing the Anthropocene—a concept whose narrative and discursive patterns concern the contemporaneity of deep time and the present and that could itself be construed as a genre.

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