Written in Stone, Painted in Fire

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Written in Stone, Painted in Fire: Geology’s influence on 19th-c. New England Writers & Artists

In 1802, dinosaur tracks were discovered in Massachusetts. Some years later, Edward Hitchcock, a geologist and college president, postulated that the tracks were made by an extinct animal, and that prehistoric volcanoes had existed in New England. At Yale, Benjamin Silliman and his student James Percival were rethinking the Earth’s origins, questioning the Biblical account of creation in six days, supposedly a mere 6000 years earlier. These new ideas influenced writers and artists. When Emily Dickinson wrote of a “lava step” and “Vesuvius at Home,” her references were literal, not metaphoric. When the Hartford native Frederic Church painted volcanoes and icebergs, his images were intended to be scientific—as well as sublime. Meanwhile, Thoreau was recording geologic observations in his journals. This course will range across science, art, and literature, making connections often missed.

Kathleen Housley

Four Wednesdays, April 3, 10, 17, 24, 6:30–8:30