This fits comfortably into the "x and literature" model of Victorian literary criticism, where x is a scientific discipline: geology, in this case. Buckland explores how geology itself is a narrative, arguing, "there can be no meaningful distinction between science and literature, since writing can be (though it is not restricted to being) a mode of scientific practice" (26). I think that's overstating the case a bit, but Buckland's mission is, in my view, to show how literary narratives appear in geology, and how geological narratives appear in literature.
Novel Science: Fiction and the Invention of Nineteenth-Century Geology
by Adelene Buckland
Hardcover, 377 pagesBorrowed from the library
Read August 2016
by Adelene Buckland
It's not the easiest read, even for literary criticism it's dense and obscure. I liked Buckland's discussions of the influence of Sir Walter Scott on nineteenth-century geology, and I really appreciated her clear delineation of what Charles Lyell and his colleagues actually believed (she argues the "catastrophist"/"uniformitarian" divide was exaggerated).
In these kind of books, I'm always much more interested in the literature than the science, and I much appreciated a thorough discussion of Charles Kingsley, moreso than I can remember seeing anywhere else. Everyone loves to talk about The Water-Babies, but (like me) Buckland recognizes his other writing has a lot to offer those interested in science, and provides extended readings of Glaucus, Alton Locke, Yeast, and Two Years Ago. I'm very familiar with the last of those; now I must get around to the first three. I'm also very curious about the scientist romance Wooers and Winners by Isabella Banks that she discusses.
I found her interpretations of Charlotte Brontë and Dickens less interesting, because I think the novels she discusses are less obviously about geology than the ones by Kingsley, and thus she's more doing the "but novel y is secretly about science x!" move that I'm a bit skeptical of. She kind of admits that, though, when she says Dickens knew science through its showmen: thus his science was visual, not textual.
A decent book if you like this kind of approach to literature and science.