Contemporary poets' responses to science
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This thesis considers a range of contemporary poets’ responses to science, emphasising the diversity of these engagements and exploring how poetry can disrupt or re-negotiate the barriers between the two activities. My first chapter explores the idea of ‘authority’ in both science and poetry and considers how these authorities co-exist in the work of two poet-scientists, Miroslav Holub and David Morley. My second chapter considers the role of metaphor in science and the effect of transferring scientific terms into poetry, specifically with reference to the poetry of Michael Symmons Roberts who engages with the metaphors related to the human genome. In my third chapter I focus on collections by Ruth Padel and Emily Ballou that tell the life of Charles Darwin in verse. I discuss how these collections function as forms of scientific biography and show that poetic engagement with Darwin’s thought processes reveals some of the similarities between scientific and poetic thinking. An area of science such as quantum mechanics may seem too complex for a non-scientist to respond to in poetry, but in my fourth chapter I show how Jorie Graham uses ideas from twentieth-century physics to re-think the materialism of the world and our perception of it. My final chapter is concerned with the relationship between ecopoetry and ecological science, with regard to the work of John Burnside. I show that although he is informed about scientific matters, in his poetry he suggests that science isn’t the only way of understanding the world. Rather than framing science and poetry in terms of the ‘two cultures’, this thesis moves away from antagonism towards productive interaction and dialogue. Whilst science and poetry are clearly very different activities, the many points of overlap and connection between them suggest that poetry is a resonant and unique way of exploring scientific ideas.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2018-09-12
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 12th September 2018
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