Environmental Spiral: Scientific Mediation in Twentieth-Century American Poetry

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Environmental Spiral: Scientific Mediation in Twentieth-Century American Poetry

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Title: Environmental Spiral: Scientific Mediation in Twentieth-Century American Poetry
Author: Brozovich, Lauren Kaye
Citation: Brozovich, Lauren Kaye. 2013. Environmental Spiral: Scientific Mediation in Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation asks how the heightening of artistic and scientific mediation has affected the representation of the environment in modernist and contemporary American poetry. In chapters on Marianne Moore, A.R. Ammons, and Jorie Graham, I contend that the twentieth century sees a crucial shift in the representation of the environment, as poets become increasingly attentive to the self-reflexive non-transparency of their own medium and incorporate the mediating discourse of science into their work. While science has served as a source for poetic imagery for centuries, suddenly in the twentieth century, mathematical equations--expressed entirely in symbols--appear in the middle of poems, and qualitative scientific language, remarkable for its opacity to the non-specialist, is woven into the texture of verse. Writing at the height of High Modernism, Moore is fascinated by natural history's fusion of art and science. For Moore, the mimetic copies displayed in natural history museums (for instance, glass flowers) reveal things about real creatures that an unmediated encounter could not. Her incorporation of replicas of natural creatures into her poems about real environments enables her to evoke what I term the "synthetic" super-real. In the early 1960s, Ammons is intrigued by the latest scientific discoveries, especially the mathematical modeling of nonlinear dynamical systems. While philosophers have argued that the poet and the scientist occupy separate spheres, Ammons fuses mathematical modeling and sensuous description. His hybrid poetic style enables him to represent the temporal evolution of nonlinear dynamical systems and the operation of forces within a field. In Sea Change, Graham, writing in the imagined wake of future climate change, fundamentally transforms poetic representational techniques, as she creates a frame-shattering poetic form that is uncomfortably poised on the threshold between a climate model and a sensuously embodied environment. By exemplifying recourse to the mediating discourse of science, these poets extend the representational limits of their own aesthetic medium, as they pave the way for twenty-first-century poets who, with greater urgency than ever before, attempt to represent the environment in an era marked by man-made climate change.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10984882
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