12 May 2016

Review: ThermoPoetics by Barri J. Gold

Hardcover, 343 pages
Published 2010

Borrowed from my advisor
Read December 2012
ThermoPoetics: Energy in Victorian Literature and Science
by Barri J. Gold

There's a whole subgenre of Victorianist literary criticism that is "[science x] and literature": so you get books on evolution and literature, geology and literature, astronomy and literature, and in this case, thermodynamics and literature. Barri Gold's work is pleasingly interdisciplinary, looking at literature in the context of science and science in the context of literature, and I appreciate her warning in the introduction to not over-Darwinize. There are other nineteenth-century scientists, and other nineteenth-century sciences! I guess whether or not you like this book comes down to what extent you find this approach a rewarding one. Anne DeWitt warns against it in Moral Authority, and I kind of agree with her: other people can do it, but I'm not terribly interested in reading literature in search of details that I can argue were cribbed from science. Like are Jekyll and Hyde and Dorian Gray "really" about entropy? I dunno. The Time Machine is, which Gold discusses, but in that novel, it's text, not subtext. This review feels dismissive, which it shouldn't be, but that's inevitable. As my scant two pages of notes on it show, ThermoPoetics is an excellent example of a kind of scholarship I am not personally very interested in.

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