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Physics EnvyAmerican Poetry and Science in the Cold War and After$
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Peter Middleton

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226290003

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226290140.001.0001

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Defying Social Science

Defying Social Science

George Oppen and Amiri Baraka

Chapter:
(p.221) 7 Defying Social Science
Source:
Physics Envy
Author(s):

Peter Middleton

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226290140.003.0008

Annual special issues of Scientific American enabled the public to learn about a scientific topic and sometimes to see that scientific knowledge was provisional, the subject of dispute within the profession itself. Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island responds to the divisions about nuclear energy revealed in two special issues on energy and ecology. The chapter offers a detailed close reading of George Oppen’s “Of Being Numerous” in the context of a special issue of Scientific American on the city. Whether or not Oppen read the magazine, he responded to current debates among social scientists about how to solve the problems of the metropolis, especially their use of the calculative rationality that Heidegger deplored. In one article, Kevin Lynch claims that the city is a work of art. Oppen’s poem disagrees, and the chapter shows just how extensively he works to challenge the aesthetic vision of the city as art. The final section of the chapter places Amiri Baraka’s poem “Ka ‘Ba” in the context of the mostly liberal discussions of race science in Scientific American, and also discusses the wider debates about the persistence of eugenicist racial science in other scientific journals.

Keywords:   Scientific American, George Oppen, Of Being Numerous, Martin Heidegger, Kevin Lynch, social science, race science, city, Amiri Baraka

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