G. H. Lewes and the Impossible Classification of Organic Life
This paper discusses George Henry Lewes's study of living matter in The Physiology of Common Life (1859–60). Despite the physiological materiality of its subject, Lewes's text often discusses states of life that defy clear-cut classification. The process of human aging is a particularly confounding example of life and death's indeterminacy because, as Lewes describes, older age invokes both the physiological and aesthetic intermingling of animal life with stone, petrifaction, and minerality. I argue that Lewes's discussion of aging in Chapter XIII draws directly from the earlier geological research of Charles Lyell and, with brief reference to illustrative examples elsewhere in Victorian writing, I show the ways in which the Lewesian understanding of aging as a state of suspension between animality and minerality is reliant upon and a spur for the nineteenth-century literary imagination.
Andrea Charise, “G. H. Lewes and the Impossible Classification of Organic Life ,” George Eliot Scholars, accessed February 25, 2021, https://georgeeliotscholars.org/items/show/299.