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Fictions of a Former World

Fictions of a Former World

(p.31) Chapter One Fictions of a Former World
Novel Science
Adelene Buckland
University of Chicago Press

Richard Owen's entry into the Geological Society of London sparked an interest and excitement in him. His wife, Caroline, wrote in her journal about Owen's witnessing interest of leading geologists in the game of “high jinks” as immortalized in Sir Walter Scott's Guy Mannering. The significance of this game to these men of science shows a connection between the literary culture of the nineteenth-century men of science and how it influenced the creation of new knowledge. John Playfair, professor of natural history, rewrote James Hutton's Theory of the Earth—which was the dominating thought at the time. Playfair's conception of the earth shares common process and construction with the inner workings of a poem—as is shown in Horace's Ars Poetica. This fictionalizing aspect of literary form in scientific arrangements would prove critical in the Geological Society's rejection of cosmogony and cosmology, giving literature a place in the science of geology.

Keywords:   Richard Owen, Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering, James Hutton, Theory of the Earth, Horace, Ars Poetica, John Playfair, cosmology, cosmogony

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