Poetry and science

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This essay recontextualises eighteenth-century poetry in the light of the New Science and technological developments during the period of the ‘ferment of knowledge’. Lawlor argues that the ‘force’ of science operates on at least two interrelated levels. The first is mediated through the technology it brings, whereby new types of clocks and watches reconstructed our sense of time and narrative. The second is at the level of ‘world-view’; our philosophical and even practical, sense of what it means to be human. Lawlor examines the influence of scientific discourse across a number of areas and themes: Physico-Theology and the New Science; Newton; The Great Chain of Being and Technology; Popular Perceptions of Science; Women and Science; Politics; Satires; Natural History; Earth Sciences; Sensibility; Romanticism. Lawlor updates previous studies of poetry and science by stressing the relationship between sensibility and the new theory of the nerves, the role of popular culture, women in science, and the complexity of science’s entanglement with politics and political poetry. His specific argument is that ‘science fundamentally altered the world-view of the literate part of eighteenth-century culture and, later, the illiterate. Such a transformation in the cultural imaginary ultimately affected and inspired all poets in the period’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Eighteenth-Century Poetry
EditorsChristine Gerrard
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages624
ISBN (Print)978-1405113168
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Publication series

NameBlackwell Companions to Literature and Culture


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