This essay takes up the recent embrace of geology by contemporary postsecular critics in relation to a history of nonsecular uses of geology as a resource for what Michael Taussig terms the “unthought zones of materiality.” It looks closely at one such manifestation: the nineteenth-century collaboration between the geologist and Spiritualist lecturer and writer William Denton and his wife, the psychometric medium Elizabeth Foote Denton, which produced a three-volume study titled The Soul of Things: Psychometric Researches and Discovery, published between 1863 and 1874. Psychometric geology suspends itself between materialism and vitalism in an effort to develop a theory, at once practical and ethical, of interobjectivity. A certain attunement, at once intellectual and intuitive, to the geological past would, according to the Dentons, lay the foundations for a vitalized and egalitarian orientation to the world. Placing the Dentons’ enchanted geology in dialogue with contemporary critical appeals to the geological, the essay explores the affective and political aspirations of both projects as they map out the progressive possibilities that may emerge from a reckoning with inspirited matter.
Dana Luciano; Sacred Theories of Earth: Matters of Spirit in The Soul of Things. American Literature 1 December 2014; 86 (4): 713–736. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2811754
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