This essay argues that the cultural reception of thermodynamics in the late nineteenth century reformulated the concept of rhythm in an attempt to manage, mitigate, or acknowledge the problem of waste. Having demonstrated an overlooked historical dialectic between the thermal sciences and prosody, I conclude by reading A. C. Swinburne’s Tristram of Lyonesse to demonstrate how rhythmical excess represents a positive expressive resource.
Thermodynamic Rhythm: The Poetics of Waste
Ewan Jones is Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Downing College. He is the author of Coleridge and the Philosophy of Poetic Form (Cambridge UP, 2014) and is currently completing a second book on the history of the concept of rhythm in the nineteenth century.
Ewan Jones; Thermodynamic Rhythm: The Poetics of Waste. Representations 1 November 2018; 144 (1): 61–89. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2018.144.1.61
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