Physics Envy: American Poetry And Science In The Cold War And After

Hardcover | November 4, 2015

byPeter Middleton

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At the close of the Second World War, modernist poets found themselves in an increasingly scientific world, where natural and social sciences claimed exclusive rights to knowledge of both matter and mind. Following the overthrow of the Newtonian worldview and the recent, shocking displays of the power of the atom, physics led the way, with other disciplines often turning to the methods and discoveries of physics for inspiration.
           
In Physics Envy, Peter Middleton examines the influence of science, particularly physics, on American poetry since World War II. He focuses on such diverse poets as Charles Olson, Muriel Rukeyser, Amiri Baraka, and Rae Armantrout, among others, revealing how the methods and language of contemporary natural and social sciences—and even the discourse of the leading popular science magazine Scientific American—shaped their work. The relationship, at times, extended in the other direction as well: leading physicists such as Robert Oppenheimer, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger were interested in whether poetry might help them explain the strangeness of the new, quantum world. Physics Envy is a history of science and poetry that shows how ultimately each serves to illuminate the other in its quest for the true nature of things.

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At the close of the Second World War, modernist poets found themselves in an increasingly scientific world, where natural and social sciences claimed exclusive rights to knowledge of both matter and mind. Following the overthrow of the Newtonian worldview and the recent, shocking displays of the power of the atom, physics led the way, ...

Peter Middleton is professor of English at the University of Southampton. He is the author of three books of scholarship, most recently Distant Reading: Performance, Readership, and Consumption in Contemporary Poetry, and a book of poetry, Aftermath; and he is the coeditor of Teaching Modernist Poetry. He lives in Southampton.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:November 4, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022629000X

ISBN - 13:9780226290003

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction

Part I Poetry and Science
1          The Poetic Universe: Mapping Interrelations between Modern American Poetry and the Sciences
2          What the Physicist Said to the Poet: How Physicists Used the Ideal of Poetry to Talk about Uncertainty

Part II Midcentury
3          Projective Verse: Fields in Science and Poetics at Midcentury
4          Conceptual Schemes: The Midcentury Poetics of Muriel Rukeyser and Charles Olson
5          Stories, Geometries, and Angels: Muriel Rukeyser, Charles Olson, and Robert        Duncan in the 1950s

Part III Scientific Americans
6          Scientific American Poetry: Rae Armantrout, Jackson Mac Low, and Robert Duncan
7          Defying Social Science: George Oppen and Amiri Baraka

Coda
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

"An original and valuable contribution to our understanding of the relations between poetry and the sciences in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. Especially of interest are the close readings of articles, whole issues, and advertisements from Scientific American in relation to specific poems and sequences—a fruitful approach, and, given Scientific American’s success and status as the publication presenting the public face of science in North America, an excellent way to reveal the multiplicity and nuance of poetic practice in its engagement with scientific language, values, and discoveries."