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Nineteenth-Century Poetry and the Physical Sciences

Poetical Matter

  • Offers a wide-ranging assessment of how perceptions of poetry, science, and materialism changed over the course of the long nineteenth-century

  • Looks at how debates about the relation between poetry and the physical sciences were constructed and communicated through the linguistic and formal details of nineteenth-century writing

  • Aims to question established narratives of intellectual specialisation in nineteenth-century Britain by arguing that poetry and science became more closely aligned as the century progressed


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Gregory Tate
    Pages 1-22
  3. Gregory Tate
    Pages 65-104
  4. Gregory Tate
    Pages 105-144
  5. Gregory Tate
    Pages 145-184
  6. Gregory Tate
    Pages 225-263
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 265-271

About this book


Poetical Matter examines the two-way exchange of language and methods between nineteenth-century poetry and the physical sciences. The book argues that poets such as William Wordsworth, Mathilde Blind, and Thomas Hardy identified poetry as an experimental investigation of nature’s materiality. It also explores how science writers such as Humphry Davy, Mary Somerville, and John Tyndall used poetry to formulate their theories, to bestow cultural legitimacy on the emerging disciplines of chemistry and physics, and to communicate technical knowledge to non-specialist audiences. The book’s chapters show how poets and science writers relied on a set of shared terms (“form,” “experiment,” “rhythm,” “sound,” “measure”) and how the meaning of those terms was debated and reimagined in a range of different texts.


Nineteenth-century poetry Poetry and science Nineteenth-century physical science William Wordsworth Periodical press Alfred Tennyson Thomas Hardy Nineteenth-century chemistry

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of EnglishUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

About the authors

Gregory Tate is a lecturer in Victorian literature at the University of St Andrews, and the author of The Poet’s Mind: The Psychology of Victorian Poetry 1830-1870 (2012).

Bibliographic information