Strange Bedfellows: Science and Poetry, University of Montreal


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Strange Bedfellows: Science and Poetry, University of Montreal

Science and poetry may not seem like a natural match. But there was a time when scientific poetry was a literary genre that allowed readers to learn about science. Professor Michel Pierssens of the Université de Montréal Department of French Literature wants to shed light on this forgotten genre dating back to the first century BC.

"The genre had a new found popularity during the Renaissance and was considered the most prestigious type of poetry in the 18th century," says Pierssens. "Poetry was written about all types of knowledge and science: agriculture, planets, chemistry, medicine, child birth, dentistry and even oenology."

Authors of scientific poetry were frequently both poets and scientists such as doctors or physicists who used poetry as a means to express their knowledge. Throughout the 18th century, poetry and science were complementary disciplines.

The advancement of science led to the demise of the genre. "In the mid-19th century, science changed and became increasingly mathematical. The language of science became more technical and poetry became a difficult vehicle with which to communicate scientific knowledge," says Pierssens. "By the end of the century, the two disciplines were officially divorced and poetry was deemed the worst way in which to express scientific knowledge."

The last work dedicated to the analysis of this poetry goes back a century, says Pierssens, who is currently leading a research project aiming to understand the root causes that led to the disappearance of the genre.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with a team from the Bibliothèque nationale de France who are digitalizing the works in question. The research results will be presented as part of conferences in Montreal and Paris and the findings will be published in the online version of Épistémocritique.

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Ο λόγος είναι μεγάλη ανάγκη της ψυχής. (Γιώργος Ιωάννου)


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