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Novel Science is the first in-depth study of the shocking, groundbreaking, and sometimes beautiful writings of the gentlemen of the "heroic age" of geology and of the contribution these men made to the literary culture of their day. For these men, literature was an essential part of the practice of science itself, as important to their efforts as mapmaking, fieldwork, and observation. The reading and writing of imaginative literatures helped them to discover, imagine, debate, and give shape and meaning to millions of years of previously undiscovered earth history.
Borrowing from the historical fictions of Walter Scott and the poetry of Lord Byron, they invented geology as a science, discovered many of the creatures we now call the dinosaurs, and were the first to unravel and map the sequence and structure of stratified rock. As Adelene Buckland shows, they did this by rejecting the grand narratives of older theories of the earth or of biblical cosmogony: theirs would be a humble science, faithfully recording minute details and leaving the big picture for future generations to paint. Buckland also reveals how these scientists – just as they had drawn inspiration from their literary predecessors – gave Victorian realist novelists such as George Eliot, Charles Kingsley, and Charles Dickens a powerful language with which to create dark and disturbing ruptures in the too-seductive sweep of story.
Part One Stories in Science
One Fictions of a Former World
Two The Story Undone
Three Lyell’s Mock Epic
Four Maps and Legends
Part Two Science in Stories
Five Kingsley’s Cataclysmic Method
Six Eliot’s Whispering Stones
Seven Dickens and the Geological City
Conclusion Losing the Plot
Appendix “Lines on a Staff,” by Charles Lyell
Adelene Buckland is a lecturer in nineteenth-century literature at King's College London. She is coeditor of A Return to the Common Reader: Print Culture and the Novel, 1850-1900.
"Novel Science is one of the most exciting and challenging contributions yet made to the booming field of science and literature studies. Admirers of Gillian Beer's Darwin's Plots and George Levine's Darwin and the Novelists now have a new classic to contend with."
- Ralph O'Connor, author of The Earth on Show