Hugh Miller and the Geologic Diorama

in The Earth on Show

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780226616681
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226616704 | DOI:
Hugh Miller and the Geologic Diorama

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This chapter focuses on the work of Hugh Miller, one of Britain's most talented and prolific men of letters, whose descriptions of the ancient earth are numerous, varied, and often extensive. Although some commentators found his prose overwrought, it enthralled the middle-class reading public on both sides of the Atlantic, exerting a lasting influence on writers as varied as Alfred Tennyson, John Ruskin, and Thomas Carlyle. Miller's unusually self-conscious approach to writing the “poetry of truth” allowed him to express commitments that were central to the business of popularizing science but which were expressed less clearly by his contemporaries. The chapter uses his pageants of deep time as a springboard for a wider discussion of what earth history meant for early Victorian writers, teasing out common links between progress and salvation, monstrosity and empire, drama and eschatology, vision and the afterlife.

Keywords: ancient earth; prose; poetry; popular science; earth history; early Victorian writers

Chapter.  16783 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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