Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism And The New Logics Of Life

Paperback | June 16, 2017

byAmanda Jo Goldstein

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Today we do not expect poems to carry scientifically valid information. But it was not always so. In Sweet Science, Amanda Jo Goldstein returns to the beginnings of the division of labor between literature and science to recover a tradition of Romantic life writing for which poetry was a privileged technique of empirical inquiry.

Goldstein puts apparently literary projects, such as William Blake’s poetry of embryogenesis, Goethe’s journals On Morphology, and Percy Shelley’s “poetry of life,” back into conversation with the openly poetic life sciences of Erasmus Darwin, J. G. Herder, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Such poetic sciences, Goldstein argues, share in reviving Lucretius’s De rerum natura to advance a view of biological life as neither self-organized nor autonomous, but rather dependent on the collaborative and symbolic processes that give it viable and recognizable form. They summon De rerum natura for a logic of life resistant to the vitalist stress on self-authorizing power and to make a monumental case for poetry’s role in the perception and communication of empirical realities. The first dedicated study of this mortal and materialist dimension of Romantic biopoetics, Sweet Science opens a through-line between Enlightenment materialisms of nature and Marx’s coming historical materialism.

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Today we do not expect poems to carry scientifically valid information. But it was not always so. In Sweet Science, Amanda Jo Goldstein returns to the beginnings of the division of labor between literature and science to recover a tradition of Romantic life writing for which poetry was a privileged technique of empirical inquiry. Golds...

Amanda Jo Goldstein is assistant professor of English at Cornell University.

other books by Amanda Jo Goldstein

Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:June 16, 2017Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022648470X

ISBN - 13:9780226484709

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“Goldstein’s Sweet Science has been anticipated with a keenness unusual for a first book. It does not disappoint. More than a valuable rereading of Blake, Erasmus Darwin, Goethe, and Percy Shelley, this book offers a new chapter in the recent recovery of Lucretianism as a powerful shaping force in European literature and thought. It challenges longstanding assumptions about nature and culture, materialism and figuration, some that derive from the Romantic period itself. In the neo-Lucretian alternative excavated by Goldstein, the work of poetry is not inimical to, or even quite distinct from, the work of empirical science. Instead, empiricism and poetics emerge as interanimating one another, fully cooperative in the work of making a world. It is a bold thesis, deftly argued, with implications spelled out for the young Marx and, indeed, for ourselves.”