Science in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism: Major Figures - Essay

Fred D. White (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘Sweet Skepticism of the Heart’: Science in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson,” in College Literature, Vol. 19, No. 1, February, 1992, pp. 121-28.

[In the following essay, White discusses the impact of science on Dickinson's poetry, speculating that the poet used her writing to explore the negative effects of the scientific impulse to uncover every secret of nature.]

Few poets in the twentieth century, let alone the nineteenth, have incorporated scientific concepts into their work as purposively and effectively as Emily Dickinson.1 She possessed an amazingly comprehensive scientific and technical vocabulary.2 More than 200 of her...

(The entire section is 3240 words.)

Beverly A. Hume (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Madness of Art and Science in Poe's ‘Ligeia,’” in Essays in Arts and Sciences, Vol. 24, October, 1995, pp. 21-32.

[In the following essay, Hume analyses Poe's “Ligeia” as a synthesis of mythology and science.]

In a September 1839 letter to Philip Cooke, Edgar Allan Poe expressed his view that “Ligeia” was “intended to convey an idea of truth to the narrator” (Letters 118). Although numerous critics have offered theories about what this “truth” might be, they all tend to treat Poe's narrator either as a romantic artist or madman, diminishing his scientific ruminations in this tale. However, a close reading of this narrator's...

(The entire section is 6121 words.)

Kate Flint (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Blood, Bodies, and The Lifted Veil,” in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 51, No. 4, March, 1997, pp. 455-73.

[In the following essay, Flint examines George Eliot's The Lifted Veil as a text representative of the developing contemporary debate about the relationship between physiology and psychology.]

On 17 March 1878 Edith Simcox paid a visit to George Eliot and her companion, George Lewes. Simcox recorded their conversation in her Autobiography: “I asked about the Lifted Veil. Lewes … asked what I thought of it. I was embarrassed and said—as he did—that it was not at all like her other writings, wherefrom she differed; she...

(The entire section is 6893 words.)

Ted Underwood (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Science in Shelley's Theory of Poetry,” in Modern Language Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 3, September, 1997, pp. 298-321.

[In the following essay, Underwood evaluates Shelley's engagement with contemporary debates on science and natural philosophy, remarking on the connections between his scientific studies and poetic theories.]

Awareness of Percy Shelley's interest in science has had surprisingly little effect on criticism of his poetry. Romanticists have known since the publication of Carl Grabo's Newton among Poets that many of Shelley's images were modeled on the science of his time.1 But when critics offer extended readings of his...

(The entire section is 8254 words.)

Beverly A. Hume (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Twain's Satire on Scientists: Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes,” in Essays in Arts and Sciences, Vol. 26, October, 1997, pp. 71-84.

[In the following essay, Hume characterizes Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes as one of Twain's few satiric attacks on the scientific ideologies of his time.]

Despite the fact that Mark Twain's Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes is as substantial a work as other late literary fragments such as the Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts, critics have come to regard Microbes as one of Mark Twain's lesser late fragmentary writings which, as Virginia Starret summarizes in the 1993...

(The entire section is 4879 words.)

Patricia O'Neill (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Victorian Lucretius: Tennyson and the Problem of Scientific Romanticism,” in Writing and Victorianism, edited by J. B. Bullen, Longman, 1997, pp. 104-19.

[In the following essay, O'Neill offers an analysis of Tennyson's poetry, explaining that his synthesis of the romantic and scientific helped define the Victorian response to the muddied waters stirred by scientific discovery.]

One of the most important influences of the Romantic movement in literature was its belief in the authority of nature over social conventions. Guiding and mediating individual thoughts and feelings, the processes and objects of nature inspired poets such as Wordsworth, Keats and...

(The entire section is 5471 words.)

Eric Wilson (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Dickinson's Chemistry of Death,” in American Transcendental Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 1, March, 1998, pp. 27-43.

[In the following essay, Wilson examines Dickinson's poems concerning death, noting that while the poet's attitude toward the power of the scientific method is generally favorable, she rejects the validity of scientific conclusions about death's mysteries.]

In 1877, in the autumn of her life, Emily Dickinson, drawing from her internal spring, reminisced about connections among science, death, and language in a letter to Thomas Higginson: “When Flowers annually died and I was a child, I used to read Dr. Hitchcock's Book on the Flowers of North...

(The entire section is 7015 words.)

Clare Pettitt (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘Cousin Holman's Dresser’: Science, Social Change, and the Pathologized Female in Gaskell's ‘Cousin Phillis,’” in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 52, No. 4, March, 1998, pp. 471-89.

[In the following essay, Pettitt uses “Cousin Phillis” to probe Elizabeth Gaskell's views of science and contemporary scientific culture.]

Gaskell completed her novel Sylvia's Lovers, the “tiresome book” that had taken her three years to write, in January 1863.1 It is a novel in which will and desire seem impotent over the development of narrative and history, and, despite the fact that no scientists appear in its pages, there is evidence...

(The entire section is 7109 words.)

Linda C. Brigham (essay date 1999)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Disciplinary Hybridity in Shelley's Adonais,” in Mosaic, Vol. 32, No. 3, September, 1999, pp. 21-39.

[In the following essay, Brigham studies Shelley's Adonais as an interdisciplinary poem that incorporates scientific literature with traditional poetry.]

Research programs in science studies—as well as more general programs in women's studies and cultural studies—have for the past two decades testified to a dissatisfaction with traditional disciplinary boundaries in the academy. At the same time, negative reactions to these interdisciplinary forays, most notoriously in Paul Gross's and Norman Levitt's Higher Superstition (1994),...

(The entire section is 7328 words.)

Robert Schweik (essay date 1999)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The influence of religion, science, and philosophy on Hardy's writings,” in The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Hardy, edited by Dale Kramer, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 54-72.

[In the following essay, Schweik outlines the influence of contemporary religious, scientific, and philosophic thought on Thomas Hardy's writings.]

A consideration of the influence of contemporary religion, science, and philosophy on Hardy's writings requires some prefatory cautions. First, such influences often overlap, and identification of how they affected Hardy's work must sometimes be no more than a tentative pointing to diverse and complex sets of possible sources...

(The entire section is 8104 words.)