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

By Barri J. Gold

ISBN-10: 026201372X

ISBN-13: 9780262013727

In ThermoPoetics , Barri Gold units out to teach us how analogous, intertwined, and collectively effective poetry and physics might be. Charting the simultaneous emergence of the legislation of thermodynamics in literature and in physics that started within the 1830s, Gold reveals that not just can technology impact literature, yet literature can impact technological know-how, in particular within the early phases of highbrow improvement. Nineteenth-century physics used to be frequently performed in phrases. And, Gold claims, a poet can be a genius in thermodynamics and a novelist can be a rattling solid engineer. Gold's full of life readings of works by way of Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Herbert Spencer, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and others provide a decidedly literary advent to such parts of thermodynamic proposal as conservation and dissipation, the linguistic stress among strength and effort, the search for a grand unified idea, techniques for coping inside an inexorably entropic universe, and the demonic capability of the thermodynamically savvy person. Victorian literature embraced the language and concepts of power physics to handle the era's issues approximately faith, evolution, race, category, empire, gender, and sexuality. Gold argues that those issues in flip formed the hopes and fears expressed in regards to the new physics. With ThermoPoetics Gold not just deals us a brand new lens by which to view Victorian literature, but additionally offers in-depth examples of the sensible functions of this type of lens. therefore Gold exhibits us that during In Memoriam , Tennyson expresses thermodynamic optimism with a imaginative and prescient of transformation after loss; in A story of 2 towns , Dickens produces order even with the common force to entropy, and in Bleak apartment he treats the unconventional itself as sequence of engines; and Wilde's Dorian grey and Stoker's Dracula display the artistic strength of chaos.

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Of course, in popular parlance, heat death tends to be associated not with the excess, but with the loss of heat. Heat is its own opposite; its popular usage suggests usable energy, what scientists and engineers call heat sources, bodies at higher temperatures from which we can derive warmth or run steam engines. 25 Thus heat itself proves a “contradiction on the tongue”26 that reproduces linguistically the tension between the first and second laws. In short, while there is no fundamental physical contradiction (a resolution that required a good deal of negotiation) between the first and second laws, thermodynamics is laden with tension.

Both texts articulate evolutionary and social narratives that are particular manifestations of the larger, linked principles of conservation and dissipation. The impulse to apply these principles to social as well as physical systems, however, requires Spencer and Bulwer-Lytton to revisit and revise their fantasies of equilibrium. Certainly Spencer’s That Thing We Do 31 phrase “survival of the fittest” and his enduring association with social Darwinism don’t resonate with ideas about equilibrium.

8 Moreover, the methods of science and literature overlap. ” Similarly, Darwin’s Origin of Species may be taken to struggle with metaphor in order to use “words . . ”9 His is an exemplary case of the development of scientific ideas through analogy, metaphor, and personification. Postponing the explication of natural selection until chapter 4, Darwin first discusses at length its human analogue in artificial selection, or what we more often call breeding. His discussion suggests strongly that the metaphor of nature-as-selector is not merely a mode of expression, a way to explain a new idea, but essential to the development of the idea itself.

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


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