Concepts of scale have become urgent and contested in two thriving but seemingly unrelated fields. Humanities scholarship on anthropogenic climate change often argues that our historical present is defined by a conflict between human and geological timescales. At the same time, challenges to historicist literary interpretation have sought to rescale the temporal units we use to contextualize the objects we study. This essay argues that Thomas Hardy's novels, which often address inhuman scales of time, reveal how literary debates about scale might productively contribute to an ongoing reconsideration of historical consciousness in the context of the climate crisis. Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles recursively activates scalar multiplicity: first, by dramatizing the intersection of scales of value, time, and space; and second, by suggesting that this drama may be understood as a feature of cyclical rather than linear history. Through Tess, we may understand how literary form provides unique imaginative purchase on a crisis that is massive at the scale of geological time but mostly imperceptible at the scale of human experience.

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