Romantic Science

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Dewey W. Hall -- Northeast Modern Language Association Conference 2014
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NeMLA 2014 Conference
Harrisburg, PA April 3-6, 2014

Panel Title: Romantic Science

Romantic Science embraces interdisciplinarity as a means by which to examine textual material concerning the nexus between literature and science. Whereas, during the 1970s-80s, historicist readings of English Romantic literature espoused by Meyer Abrams, Alan Liu, and Marjorie Levinson among others featured the “spirit of the age” incited by the French Revolution in 1789; this panel focuses on the “science of the age” in the aim to trace evidence of science as that which inspired the poetry and prose by English Romantic writers. William Wordsworth read Gilbert White’s *Natural History of Selborne* (1789); Samuel Taylor Coleridge often attended the lectures by Humphrey Davy, renowned chemist; Percy Shelley’s intense interest in geology had been likely inspired by James Hutton’s *Theory of the Earth* (1788); Wordsworth became close friends with Adam Sedgwick, founder of the Geological Society, who appended letters to Wordsworth’s *Guide to the Lakes* (1850s). Several questions will frame the panel: 1) To what extent does language (i.e. scientific discourse) mitigate the relationship between the literary and scientific? 2) How does the use of scientific discourse by Romantic writers reshape the understanding of their work as literary texts? 3) What are the implications of cross-disciplinary activity and thought – poet-turned-scientist or scientist-turned-poet? The aim of Romantic Science is not to direct a response at new historicist practices even though this panel hopes to feature a viable alternative to interpreting Romantic literary texts. Further, Romantic Science does not intend to blur the line between the literary and scientific naively by suggesting that poets are scientists through embedding scientific metaphors in their writing. Rather, Romantic Science is interested in new interpretations of canonical and possibly non-canonical Romantic literary material to demonstrate that poets and scientists shared ideas, inspired work, and enjoyed lasting friendships.

Romantic Science invites papers that examine Romantic textual material concerning the nexus between literature and science. Proposals need to include: name, paper title, abstract (200 words), institution, and academic profile (100 words). Please send proposals to Dewey Hall at by 9/30/13.

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