Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Physics EnvyAmerican Poetry and Science in the Cold War and After$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Peter Middleton

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226290003

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226290140.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 29 March 2020

The Poetic Universe

The Poetic Universe

Mapping Interrelations between Modern American Poetry and the Sciences

(p.17) 1 The Poetic Universe
Physics Envy

Peter Middleton

University of Chicago Press

Postwar New American poets and their successors, the Language Writers, insisted that their poetry was capable of intellectual inquiry. After giving examples of their claims for poetry, the chapter sets out the book’s methodological assumptions. Literary theory has struggled to represent adequately the interrelations between science and poetry because it has not engaged with the epistemological claims of the sciences. Yet science is part of the DNA of modern literary theory. One major theme of the book is how poets attempted to develop new poetic epistemologies. Science envy has been attributed to the early-twentieth-century modernist poets, but the book argues that the picture is more complex in the postwar era. Many disciplines employed methods and concepts from physics, seeing this not as physics envy but as intellectual opportunity. The book then maps out schematically the different kinds of responses made by postwar American poets of all kinds to the sciences. It goes on to show how some of these responses had antecedents among modernist predecessors. Archibald MacLeish’s poem “Einstein” is discussed in detail because of its representative character. The importance of William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound for later poets is discussed.

Keywords:   New American poets, language writers, postwar poets, literary theory, epistemology, modernist poetry, physics envy, Archibald MacLeish, William Carlos Williams

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.