Pascale McCullough Manning and Andrea Charise
Seachange: Age Issue, pp. 34-50
Publication year: 2013


The nineteenth century was an age preoccupied by considerations of the earth’s antiquity. Geologists like Charles Lyell and James Hutton were foremost in mapping the earth’s old age, and their writings did much to stimulate an unprecedented (and sometimes deeply disturbing) apprehension of epochs thoroughly removed from human experience. We argue that a geological vision of the earth’s age is very much at stake in George Eliot’s Silas Marner (1861), a novel that superimposes the workings of geological time onto one man’s ageing body. Eliot’s novel therefore provides a case study of the geological imaginary, by highlighting the multilayered nature of “age” that continues to spur twenty-first century artistic initiatives.