I study interactions and overlaps between literature and science, focusing on the long nineteenth century. Within this area my specialisms are the literature of the earth sciences, scientific writing for general readers, and turn-of-the-century adventure novels.
My doctoral research explored how and why ‘dinosaur’ became a household word in Britain and the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. Many fossil dinosaurs were excavated in the US during this period, and I argued that their transatlantic fame and cultural relevance were built up in the publications of various popular writers. Using modern literary forms, these opinionated authors incorporated dinosaurs into saleable narratives of romance, progress, and imperial expansion—often undermining the conclusions of established scientists. As such, I contested, British and American authors outside the scientific elite played a major and surprising role in making these prehistoric animals iconic. My book on this subject is currently in the works.
Currently I am examining transatlantic geoscience between the 1860s and the 1920s, focusing on one of the stranger sides of its print culture. This period was characterised by fierce disputes about the planet's deep history, at the centre and at the fringes of science and everywhere in between. What did evolution mean for religion? Were the continents mobile? Was Atlantis real? Was the earth hollow? There existed no standard model of geoscientific authorship during these decades, leaving issues like disciplinary authority, literary style, and the relevance of religion up for debate. I will clarify how contemporaries navigated this terrain by analysing three ‘borderline’ genres of literature: lost-world fiction, religious geohistories, and eccentric geological monographs.