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05 May Newcastle University

Newcastle University

Each scholar of the nineteenth century knows that Victorian thinkers have been haunted by geological study and the prospect it opened of a vast time scale that seemed to contradict the Bible and cast human life into insignificance. We know this, of course, since the Victorians told us most famously, John Ruskin complained of hearing the ‘clink’ of the geologists’ ‘dreadful hammers… at the end of Thomas Sabo Jewellery each and every cadence of the Bible verses’. In recognizing the essential spot of geology and the younger discipline of archaeology in the Victorian imagination, Virginia Zimmerman does not break fundamentally new ground. But her study is useful for its convincing analyses of the relations amongst high Victorian literature and geology or archaeology, as effectively as for aligning the topic with present-day efforts to rethink literary history in terms of ‘deep time’.

 

Zimmerman starts with a theoretical account that builds on Paul Ricoeur’s notion of the ‘trace’ in order to recognise how multiple chronologies intersect in objects utilised to view the past. Equally important for her is Johannes Fabian’s recognition of ‘coevalness’ amongst anthropologists and the cultures they study. Even when excavated objects revealed a geological time that seemed imponderably vast, Zimmerman argues, those objects provided traces from the previous that rendered it coeval with the present, and consequently presented hope that some thing from the present could survive to turn into coeval with the future. She points out that the establishment of uniformitarian’s as a geological principle (versus the catastrophism that attributed the earth’s configuration to sudden volcanic eruptions or epic floods) could bring a parallel type of hope: if slow, ordinary, everyday phenomena could invisibly carve out Thomas Sabo Bracelets coastlines and rock formations, then perhaps the modest, individual actions of guys and ladies may possibly have some similarly excellent cumulative impact more than time. For Zimmerman, developments in geology that may well appear to diminish the value of human beings could really end up enabling writers to amplify the value of the individual especially the power of the particular person who excavates and interprets the fragments of the previous, and who uses them to construct information about the present and future.

 

Taking Gillian Beer’s evaluation of the reciprocal movement amongst scientific discourse and literary texts (specifically in Darwin’s Plots [1983]) as a model, Zimmerman alternates chapters on geology and archaeology with chapters on Tennyson and Dickens. In her discussion of Victorian geologists, she argues that the writing of uniformitarians efficiently displaces the Paley-esque provision of evidence for a Creator with the authority of the scientist as creative observer. Whilst Charles LyelFs epoch-producing Principles of Geology (1830-33) illustrates ‘the power of the geologist to turn into deep time’s storyteller’ Gideon MantelPs identification of the fossilised iguanodon epitomises the expert’s capacity imaginatively to reanimate the past even if Mantell bought his popular fossil rather than discovering it himself.

 

 

 

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