Journal Article

‘as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth’: The Flood in Victorian Fiction

Darryl Jones

in Literature and Theology

Volume 26, issue 4, pages 439-458
Published in print December 2012 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online October 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/frs051
‘as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth’: The Flood in Victorian Fiction

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Conventional intellectual history posits a paradigm shift in 1859, with the publication of On the Origin of Species. Darwin’s great work troubled—and, for many, completely overturned—traditional Christian teleology, completing the work done by generations of earlier geologists (Hutton, Cuvier, Lyell), whose formulation of geological ‘deep time’ posited a world vastly older than Biblical creationism had imagined. Things are not that simple, though, and apocalyptic images, not always shorn of their theological overtones, persist throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, combining and assimilating the allegedly disparate or even incompatible world-views of science and theology: the ‘two cultures’ have always coexisted comfortably within the capacious form of the novel, modernity’s representative cultural medium. This article will focus in particular on the representation of flooding in 19th-century fiction, with close analyses of major novels by the two most important Victorian novelists: Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss. The idea of the flood united both scientific and theological concerns for the Victorians, concerns that, sometimes overtly, but more often obliquely, find their ways into the period’s fiction.

Journal Article.  9017 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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