Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine

Nineteenth-Century Poetry and the Physical Sciences

Poetical Matter

Authors: Tate, Gregory

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  • Offers a wide-ranging assessment of how perceptions of poetry, science, and materialism changed over the course of the long nineteenth-century
  • Looks at how debates about the relation between poetry and the physical sciences were constructed and communicated through the linguistic and formal details of nineteenth-century writing
  • Aims to question established narratives of intellectual specialisation in nineteenth-century Britain by arguing that poetry and science became more closely aligned as the century progressed
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About this book

Poetical Matter examines the two-way exchange of language and methods between nineteenth-century poetry and the physical sciences. The book argues that poets such as William Wordsworth, Mathilde Blind, and Thomas Hardy identified poetry as an experimental investigation of nature’s materiality. It also explores how science writers such as Humphry Davy, Mary Somerville, and John Tyndall used poetry to formulate their theories, to bestow cultural legitimacy on the emerging disciplines of chemistry and physics, and to communicate technical knowledge to non-specialist audiences. The book’s chapters show how poets and science writers relied on a set of shared terms (“form,” “experiment,” “rhythm,” “sound,” “measure”) and how the meaning of those terms was debated and reimagined in a range of different texts.

“A stimulating analysis of nineteenth-century poetry and physics. In this groundbreaking

study, Tate turns to sound to tease out fascinating continuities across

scientific inquiry and verse. Reflecting that ‘the processes of the universe’ were

themselves ‘rhythmic,’ he shows that a wide range of poets and scientists were

thinking through undulatory motion as a space where the material and the immaterial

met. ‘The motion of waves,’ Tate demonstrates, was ‘the exemplary form in

the physical sciences.’ Sound waves, light, energy, and poetic meter were each

characterized by a ‘process of undulation,’ that could be understood as both a

physical and a formal property. Drawing on work in new materialism and new

formalism, Tate illuminates a nineteenth-century preoccupation with dynamic patterning

that characterizes the undulatory as (in John Herschel’s words) not ‘things,

but forms.’”

—Anna Henchman, Associate Professor of English at Boston University, USA

“This impressive study consolidates and considerably advances the field of physics

and poetry studies. Moving easily and authoritatively between canonical and scientist

poets, Nineteenth-Century Poetry and the Physical Sciences draws scientific

thought and poetic form into telling relation, disclosing how they were understood

variously across the nineteenth century as both comparable and competing

ways of knowing the physical world. Clearly written and beautifully structured,

Nineteenth-Century Poetry and the Physical Sciences is both scholarly and accessible,

a fascinating and indispensable contribution to its field.”

—Daniel Brown, Professor of English at the University of Southampton, UK

“Essential reading for Victorianists. Tate’s study of nineteenth-century poetry and

science reconfi gures debate by insisting on the equivalence of accounts of

empirical fact and speculative theory rather than their antagonism. The

undulatory rhythms of the universe and of poetry, the language of science and of

verse, come into new relations. Tate brilliantly re-reads Coleridge, Tennyson,

Mathilde Blind and Hardy through their explorations of matter and ontological

reality. He also addresses contemporary theory from Latour to Jane Bennett.”

— Isobel Armstrong, Emeritus Professor of English at Birkbeck, University of London, UK


About the authors

Gregory Tate is a lecturer in Victorian literature at the University of St Andrews, and the author of The Poet’s Mind: The Psychology of Victorian Poetry 1830-1870 (2012).


Table of contents (7 chapters)

Table of contents (7 chapters)

Buy this book

eBook $44.99
price for USA in USD
  • ISBN 978-3-030-31441-5
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $89.99
price for USA in USD
  • ISBN 978-3-030-31440-8
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Institutional customers should get in touch with their account manager
  • Shipping restrictions
  • Usually ready to be dispatched within 3 to 5 business days, if in stock
Softcover $59.99
price for USA in USD
  • ISBN 978-3-030-31443-9
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Institutional customers should get in touch with their account manager
  • Shipping restrictions
  • Usually ready to be dispatched within 3 to 5 business days, if in stock
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Nineteenth-Century Poetry and the Physical Sciences
Book Subtitle
Poetical Matter
Authors
Series Title
Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine
Copyright
2020
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG
eBook ISBN
978-3-030-31441-5
DOI
10.1007/978-3-030-31441-5
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-030-31440-8
Softcover ISBN
978-3-030-31443-9
Series ISSN
2634-6435
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XI, 271
Topics