Thesis ID: CBB001560620

The Chemical Revolution in British Poetry, 1772--1822 (2007)


Kleinneiur, Joann (Author)

Stanford University
Bender, John

Publication Date: 2007
Edition Details: Advisor: Bender, John
Physical Details: 253 pp.
Language: English

My dissertation offers a new reading of romantic poetry based on a compositional poetics. I focus my analysis on Erasmus Darwin, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, all of whom had extensive knowledge of chemistry. Chemical motion follows the pattern of combination and change; this pattern was called "elective affinity" in the eighteenth century. In this period, chemists, linguists, and poets elaborated the analogy between elements of matter and elements of language. In the 1780s, interest began to shift from human nature to nature, which, in the case of chemical matter, could "act" by itself without human intervention, even though the matter was neither living nor sentient. The romantic poets sought a way to bridge the analogy between the changing forms of matter and the changing forms of language. The poets began to focus on the process of poetic creation and to imitate in their poetic process the pattern of elective affinity. By imitating the process of motion found in nature, the poets attempted to put their poetry in motion literally. Erasmus Darwin believed the literary trope called "comparison" was most like elective affinity because comparison brought together entities of language with resemblance to one another. Erasmus Darwin invented a poetic technique based on analogy, in which analogical ideas combine and change one another. William Blake closed the gap between matter and language through his chemical method of production, in which his poetry is literally produced by the chemical reaction between nitric acid and copper during the etching process. One of the most important chemical phenomena for Coleridge was crystallization. Crystals are matter that has organized itself from the inside out, so that form is not imposed on the matter, but organically co-evolves with it. In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and "Frost at Midnight," we see Coleridge comparing the work of meter to the work of the frost, as his poems also crystallize by following a natural pattern of motion. I conclude with a discussion of Shelley's experimentation with an elective affinity of sound, through the medium of breath, or the taking of air into the body, in "Ode to the West Wind" and Prometheus Unbound .


Description “I focus my analysis on Erasmus Darwin, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, all of whom had extensive knowledge of chemistry.” (from the abstract) Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 68/09 (2008). Pub. no. AAT 3281872.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Thesis Goldstein, Amanda Jo; (2011)
“Sweet Science”: Romantic Materialism and the New Sciences of Life (/isis/citation/CBB001567306/)

Book Amanda Jo Goldstein; (2017)
Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life (/isis/citation/CBB350652099/)

Book Jackson, Noel; (2008)
Science and Sensation in Romantic Poetry (/isis/citation/CBB000850370/)

Book Gigante, Denise; (2009)
Life: Organic Form and Romanticism (/isis/citation/CBB000954780/)

Book Dahlia Porter; (2018)
Science, Form, and the Problem of Induction in British Romanticism (/isis/citation/CBB734911585/)

Book Amanda Jo Goldstein; (2017)
Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life (/isis/citation/CBB817048513/)

Thesis Rispoli, Stephanie Adair; (2014)
Anatomy, Vitality, and the Romantic Body: Blake, Coleridge, and the Hunter Circle, 1750--1840 (/isis/citation/CBB001567614/)

Article Sam George; (2014)
Carl Linnaeus, Erasmus Darwin and Anna Seward: Botanical Poetry and Female Education (/isis/citation/CBB189590852/)

Article Marshall, Ashley; (2007)
Erasmus Darwin contra David Hume (/isis/citation/CBB001032681/)

Article Sommer, Marianne; (2003)
The Romantic Cave? The Scientific and Poetic Quests for Subterranean Spaces in Britain (/isis/citation/CBB000470492/)

Thesis Joseph Fletcher; (2016)
Quid's Pantheism: William Blake as Natural Philosopher (/isis/citation/CBB265152879/)

Book Holmes, Richard; (2008)
The Age of Wonder (/isis/citation/CBB001024401/)

Book Priestman, Martin; (2013)
The Poetry of Erasmus Darwin: Enlightened Spaces, Romantic Times (/isis/citation/CBB001552321/)

Article Bate, Jonathan; (1996)
Green Romanticism (/isis/citation/CBB000072345/)

Chapter Elliott, Paul; (2012)
Erasmus Darwin's Trees (/isis/citation/CBB001421358/)

Book Fara, Patricia; (2012)
The Ingenious Dr. Darwin: Sex, Science, and Serendipity (/isis/citation/CBB001251290/)

Authors & Contributors
Goldstein, Amanda Jo
Bate, Jonathan
Butler, Judith
Largier, Niklaus
Francois, Anne-Lise
Floyd-Wilson, Mary
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Studies in Romanticism
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Science and Education
Cambridge University Press
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Chicago Press
Yale University Press
Pantheon Books
Oxford University Press
Science and literature
Poetry and poetics
Science and culture
Senses and sensation; perception
Darwin, Erasmus
Blake, William
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
Shelley, Percy Bysshe
Wordsworth, William
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
Great Britain
British Isles
London (England)
Lichfield Botanical Society

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment