The Earth on Show

Ralph O'Connor

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780226616681
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226616704 | DOI:
The Earth on Show

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At the turn of the nineteenth century, geology—and its claims that the earth had a long and colorful prehuman history—was widely dismissed as dangerous nonsense, but just fifty years later, it was the most celebrated of Victorian sciences. This book tracks the growth of geology's prestige in Britain, exploring how a new geohistory far more alluring than the standard six days of Creation was assembled and sold to the wider Bible-reading public. Shrewd science-writers marketed spectacular visions of past worlds, piquing the public imagination with glimpses of man-eating mammoths, talking dinosaurs, and sea-dragons spawned by Satan himself. These authors—including men of science, women, clergymen, biblical literalists, hack writers, blackmailers, and prophets—borrowed freely from the Bible, modern poetry, and the urban entertainment industry, creating new forms of literature in order to transport their readers into a vanished and alien past. In exploring the use of poetry and spectacle in the promotion of popular science, the author proves that geology's success owed much to the literary techniques of its authors. A blend of the history of science, literary criticism, book history, and visual culture, the book rethinks the relationship between science and literature in the nineteenth century.

Keywords: geology; prehuman history; Victorian sciences; geohistory; Creation; clergymen; biblical literalists; hack writers; blackmailers; prophets

Book.  561 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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Lyell Steps In in The Earth on Show


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