This book follows the interplay of allegory and physics from the advent of the laws of thermodynamics in 1850s to the cultural reception of the theory of relativity in the 1920s. The physical and allegorical ferment of the new energy science had important repercussions in many fields of culture, including politics, philosophy, literature, and the arts. Energy Forms examines a number of nineteenth-century writers responding to thermodynamics and electromagnetism and connects them to early twentieth-century culture by examining their effects in the novels and essays of Yevgeny Zamyatin and D-H Lawrence.
Part One gives a theoretical overview of the formal interconnections of allegory and science, the circulation of energy concepts within ideological frames of representation, and other forms of allegorical transfer of scientific concepts to various sites in the cultural field. Part Two follows the allegory of classical thermodynamics from its inception in the science of Thomson and Maxwell to its culmination in modernist fiction, detailing how narratives of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Charles Howard Hinton, Camille Flammarion, H-G Wells, Zamyatin, and Lawrence personify energies and moralize their transformations. Part Three shifts to the allegory of electromagnetic radiation, wherein energy and entropy are repositioned as processes mediated by the ether and the fourth dimension of space. These allegories of space countered visions of entropic doom by opening up new dimensions of existential and physical possibility. Victorian and modernist literature are energized by this broad cultural tension between thermodynamic malaise and electromagnetic aspiration.
The book will interest scholars in the history of science, readers concerned with scientific rhetoric, and scholars of science and society. It will also appeal to students of Victorian and modernist literature, especially those with comparatist and interdisciplinary interests.