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Reading Dylan Thomas$
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Edward Allen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474411554

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411554.001.0001

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‘Lamp-posts and high-volted fruits’: Scientific Discourse in the Work of Dylan Thomas

‘Lamp-posts and high-volted fruits’: Scientific Discourse in the Work of Dylan Thomas

Chapter:
(p.91) Chapter 5 ‘Lamp-posts and high-volted fruits’: Scientific Discourse in the Work of Dylan Thomas
Source:
Reading Dylan Thomas
Author(s):

John Goodby

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411554.003.0006

Dylan Thomas is generally regarded as a poet purely of the organic and vitalistic. However, his extensive recourse to an imagery of blood and soil, stars and flesh, seems to escape the atavistic and reactionary tenor we might expect, and which is found in contemporaries who share his mythopoeic, biological concerns. Yet it is not immediately clear how it does so. Historical context clearly plays a role – a generational repugnance for Nazi racial ideology – as does allegiance to the Joycean ‘revolution of the word’, which works against establishing a stable self in language. However, less well understood is the role in Thomas’s distinctive ‘process’ vision played by scientific discourses – the new physics, Darwinism and Freudianism – which, if they could endorse an organicist, even primitivist vision, could also profoundly relativise it. Part of this chapter’s purpose, then, is to trace the general influence of science on Thomas via popularizing works by cosmologists such as Alfred North Whitehead, James Jeans and Arthur Eddington, and contemporary discourses concerning gland surgery and hormone synthesis.

Keywords:   Science, Process Poetic, 18 Poems, Darwinism, Nuclear apocalypse

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