ThermoPoetics by Barri J. Gold
Energy in Victorian Literature and Science

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ThermoPoetics is an excellent example of current research that emphasises the common concerns of literature and science: one rather than two cultures.
-Guardian

Synopsis

In ThermoPoetics, Barri Gold sets out to show us how analogous, intertwined, and mutually productive poetry and physics may be. Charting the simultaneous emergence of the laws of thermodynamics in literature and in physics that began in the 1830s, Gold finds that not only can science influence literature, but literature can influence science, especially in the early stages of intellectual development. Nineteenth-century physics was often conducted in words. And, Gold claims, a poet could be a genius in thermodynamics and a novelist could be a damn good engineer. Gold's lively readings of works by Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Herbert Spencer, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and others offer a decidedly literary introduction to such elements of thermodynamic thought as conservation and dissipation, the linguistic tension between force and energy, the quest for a grand unified theory, strategies for coping within an inexorably entropic universe, and the demonic potential of the thermodynamically savvy individual. Gold shows us that in A Tale of Two Cities, for example, Dickens produces order in spite of the universal drive to entropy; Wilde's Dorian Gray and Stoker's Dracula, on the other hand, reveal the creative potential of chaos.Victorian literature embraced the language and ideas of energy physics to address the era's concerns about religion, evolution, race, class, empire, gender, and sexuality. Gold argues that these concerns, in turn, shaped the hopes and fears expressed about the new physics.
 

About Barri J. Gold

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Barri J. Gold is Associate Professor of English at Muhlenberg College.
 
Published February 10, 2012 by The MIT Press. 357 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by PD Smith on Mar 20 2012

ThermoPoetics is an excellent example of current research that emphasises the common concerns of literature and science: one rather than two cultures.

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