Chapter

The First Last Man? Thomas Burnet and the Revolution in Time

Fiona J. Stafford

in The Last of the Race

Published in print June 1994 | ISBN: 9780198112228
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670718 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112228.003.0003
The First Last Man? Thomas Burnet and the Revolution in Time

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This chapter examines Thomas Burnet's The Sacred Theory of the Earth, an influential account of the earth's history based on the text of the Bible, published in the seventeenth century. In The Sacred Theory, Burnet, who considers himself among the first last men, articulates the myth of the last of the race in its most extreme form; yet, his text contains all the major factors that were to bring about the myth's development: the diminishing apocalyptic convictions, the tension between individual and communal attitudes, and the concept of linear time. The Sacred Theory is a manifestation of traditional beliefs and among the first futuristic fictions. Burnet's creation of the Sacred Theory was seen to be taking over God's role as ‘Author’ while also underscoring the scriptural history's fictional aspect.

Keywords: Thomas Burnet; race; Sacred Theory; Richard Steele; essays; earth history; linear time; myths; apocalyptic convictions

Chapter.  11020 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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