Energy Forms

Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics
Bruce Clarke
The interplay of literature and physics that led to acceptance of the theory of relativity


This book follows the interplay between allegory and physics in Europe from the inception of the laws of thermodynamics in the 1850s to the cultural acceptance of the theory of relativity in the 1920s. Bruce Clarke delves into the cultural poetics of this emergence, as well as using allegory theory to link the literature of that era to the consolidation of modern physics in England. In his examination of these correlating topics the author displays not only an impressive grasp on the scientific climate of that era, but also comprehensive knowledge of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature.

The book begins with an overview of the interconnections between allegory in literature and allegory in science, then analyzes the interaction between energy and entropy and their personification in the literature of the times. Energy Forms draws on the writing of well-known literary and scientific authors including H. G. Wells, Camille Flammarion, Charles Howard Hinton and D. H. Lawrence, among others. The focus then shifts to the broad cultural tension between thermodynamic malaise and electromagnetic aspiration. Energy Forms uncovers the works of important but overlooked authors in the fields of science and literature and will appeal especially to those who are intrigued by interdisciplinary studies.

Bruce Clarke is Professor of English,Texas Tech University. He is the author of Dora Marsden and Early Modernism: Gender, Individualism, Science; Allegories of Writing: The Subject of Metamorphosis; and editor of The Body and the Text: Comparative Essays in Literature and Medicine.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . Clarke provides a multidimensional picture of the transition from classical mechanics to relativity and quantum mechanics and the gradual, uneven collapse of the ether hypothesis. But it is more than another history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century science. Energy Forms offers an account of the ideological and cultural work of allegory and technoscientism in both the production and reception of scientific fact. The modernist texts discussed in Energy Forms are greatly enriched by being set into such a complex and fascinating context, but they also highlight the significant tensions in a transitional moment in science. Indeed, if science studies helps modernist studies complicate its own understanding of modernity, modernist studies helps open new areas of cultural exploration in science studies, promoting a complex sense of the importance of textuality in the production of scientific fact."
    ---Mark Morrisson, Penn State University, Modernism/modernity, Volume 9, No. 4

Look Inside

Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted December 2001.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
  • 13 drawings, 2 B&W photographs, 1 table.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11174-9

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  • $99.95 U.S.