Metaphors of Change in the Language of Nineteenth-century Fiction: Scott, Gaskell and Kingsley

From the beginning of the nineteenth century, the emerging study of language shared with geology certain metaphors - co-existing but mutually incompatible - to describe theories of change. The Tower of Babel, Rise and Fall, Line and Branch were ideas that fed both disciplines; and linguistic study sometimes drew its imagery directly from geology, comparing varieties of language to fossils marking layers of development. At the same time, tension arose between the concept of language as a fixed sign and the wish to endorse it as a tool for change, an unpredictable maker of history. Metaphors of Change looks in detail at three authors - Walter Scott, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charles Kingsley - whose handling of language, and in particular of dialect speech, demonstrates different angles of approach, and puts fiction into dialogue with science. Through textual analysis of the novels, and examination of contemporary scientific discourse, the book throws light on how different genres affected the century's use of metaphor and its often contradictory theories of progress.