Tuesday, January 04, 2005

English literature and geology do mix!

Here is a concrete example of why all English literature students should study geology! In the first B.S. Johnson story the main character is a teacher doing a lesson on geology - 'Albert Angelo'. Central to the story is this piece of gneiss – a metamorphic rock. The character is describing this small piece of gneiss to the class whilst at the same time he is remembering the holiday with his girlfriend in Ireland where he took the gneiss sample (the rock gets stolen by one of the kids). He goes on to describe gneiss as an igneous rock. This really shocked me because there is no way that gneiss could be considered an igneous rock. It is strongly layered, igneous rocks are hardly ever layered. I started to think how he could have made such a mistake. Perhaps he is doing it deliberately so that the character may have an argument with a geologist later on … unlikely, perhaps he really doesn’t know that gneiss is a metamorphic rock. Where would he have read this? As far as I know gneiss has always been considered metamorphic. The best explanation I can come up with is that he read this information in an architecture manual. One where the author got his information wrong and one that the author never managed to check up.

The question is, would anybody else realise this? I doubt if any English literature student would realise this unless perhaps they had just been watching Alan Titchmarsh’s guide to geology on TV. That perhaps is quite unlikely too! I still haven’t finished the story as yet, I will maybe find out . It would be quite amazing to be able to find an architecture manual where gneiss is identified as an igneous rock, one reason why cheaters never win, they repeat their mistakes!


Cocobarks said...

My understanding of the terms is that igneous rocks are rocks formed by heat and gneiss rocks are formed by both heat and pressure. So gneiss rocks may contain igneous rock, but igneous rocks cannot contain gneiss rock. Am I correct or confused?

Igneos said...

Hey there Carole,

What you have to understand is that the processes are everything. An igneous rock is a pure solid that results ftom the cooling of molten rock. For example if you melt sugar and then pour it out, once it is hard that is the equivalent of igneous rocks. These rocks are full of crystals and normally they have no internal structure.

What happens in nature is you get your igneous rocks they solidify and they are cool for a long time, then they get crushed - pressure or maybe some more molten rock lands on top of them - heat. This is when metamorphic rocks are formed. Most metamorphic rocks are formed by pressure and heat. They are effectively squashed and this pressure creates layering. If granite (igneous) is crushed it becomes gneiss (metamorphic). They are relatively easy to distinguish, once a rock has layers it will flake easily - eg slate.