Article ID: CBB001253051

“A great empire falling to pieces”: Coleridge, Herschel, and Whewell on the Poetics of Unitary Knowledge (2013)


This essay examines the use of poetic quotations in the metascientific writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Herschel, and William Whewell. It situates particular uses of poetic quotations in relation both to the author's work and the broader context of early nineteenth-century metascientific discourse. While each of these authors espoused a different model of scientific method, they all had recourse to poetic quotations as a means of gesturing toward what they saw as the fundamental unity of knowledge. In an age of increased disciplinary specialization, poetic quotations functioned as both ceremonial invocations of a unitary national culture and speculative gestures toward a future synthesis that would articulate the fragmentary branches of modern knowledge as a fully integrated organic whole.

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Authors & Contributors
Snyder, Laura J.
Fahnestock, Jeanne
Rosenfelt, Deborah
Cohen, William A.
Smith, Martha Nell
Gentry, Larry
Journal of Literature and Science
History of European Ideas
Victorian Studies
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Franco Angeli
Cambridge University Press
Broadway Books
Stanford University
University of Alberta (Canada)
Washington State University
Science and literature
Poetry and poetics
Philosophy of science
Methodology of science; scientific method
Scientific communities; interprofessional relations
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
Whewell, William
Herschel, John Frederick William
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord
Blake, William
Wordsworth, William
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
Great Britain
Cambridge University
Royal Society of London

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