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Liberty and Poetic LicenceNew Essays on Byron$
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Bernard Beatty, Tony Howe, and Charles Robinson

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780853235897

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846315428

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Byron's Afterlife and the Emancipation of Geology1

Byron's Afterlife and the Emancipation of Geology1

(p.147) Byron's Afterlife and the Emancipation of Geology1
Liberty and Poetic Licence

Ralph O'connor

Liverpool University Press

This chapter demonstrates that Byron's poetry both prompted and helped geologists in England to promote their science, and to free it from Biblical literalism in the public eye. During this ‘heroic’ age of geology, the science won a large following in Britain, partly because its pioneers were also men of letters. Treatises such as Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology were literary masterpieces, whose poetic imagery and rhetoric were crucial in advocating this strange new science. These literary factors, in which Byron looms large, complicate the simple Moses-to-Darwin narratives typical of scientific secular positivism. The chapter begins with a discussion of the very specific challenge posed by Cain to the new historical geology.

Keywords:   Byron, poetry, geologists, Biblical literalism, Cain

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