chapter  12
GEOLOGY
BySTEPHEN A. NORWICK
Pages 10

The relations between geology and literature go back at least to the beginnings of modern science in the Enlightenment. Abraham Gottlob Werner, author of the first mineralogy textbook, influenced Goethe and taught Novalis at the Freiberg Mining Academy. James Hutton of Edinburgh, the founder of modern geology, influenced Emerson, Thoreau, and Muir. My teacher D.B. McIntyre used to recite from memory long passages from Lord of the Rings, in his Scots burr, around a campfire on star-filled, moonless nights in a dry camp in the low mountains of the Mojave Desert of southwestern Nevada. Perhaps it is my experience of oral poetry around the campfire that makes me think as well of the prehistoric origins of both science and literature. European natural science arose in the frame of six major holistic metaphors

of nature (see Norwick 2006). The ancient pagan peoples who spoke the IndoEuropean languages believed that the earth was created when the gods killed and dismembered the bodies of a race of monstrous giants and made the rocks and hills and valleys with their body parts. Traces of this idea remain in the personified nomenclature for hills, landslides, alluvial fans, and lava flows that have crowns, brows, feet, and toes; the whole earth has bowels. Hellenistic natural philosophers retained this image and developed the theory of the macrocosm, a giant, male, human body that is the observable universe. Empedocles of Agrigento incorporated the macrocosm in his unified theory of the four elements in the parts of natural philosophy that became astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, and medicine. This connection influenced literature for the next two millennia. The Book of Nature trope is derived from the Sumerian book of fate, which

became the book of life to the Hebrew peoples, and entered Christian and Muslim cultures. In the Middle Ages, the idea of the Book of Nature written by God suggested that nature has instructive andmorally uplifting messages for people to read. The image of the Book of Nature was central to nineteenth-and early twentiethcentury biology and geology. Biologists dropped the trope when they adopted Darwinism, but popular nature writers, especially the most religious authors, continue to use the image. Geologists and molecular geneticists are the only scientists who still regularly use the Book of Nature trope (Norwick 2006, ch. 9).