University of Bayreuth, Press Release No. 004/2024 - 16 January 2024
DFG funding for international research on early modern scientific poetry at the University of Bayreuth
The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) are providing a total of EUR 880,000 to fund research into scientific poetry in Britain and Germany from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. The joint project between the universities of Marburg, York, Bayreuth and Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, focusses on the poetic communication of natural philosophical knowledge from fields such as geology, astronomy, and botany.
When the modern natural sciences emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries, poetry was one of the means used to disseminate the new knowledge. "Scientific poetry lent itself to giving form to new ideas and thus legitimising them. It could make physical and metaphysical facts fruitful in a way that other text forms could not. Poetry was not mere ornament, but was intended to reveal deep structures in the created world," says Prof Dr Florian Klaeger, Professor of English Literature at the University of Bayreuth and one of the heads of the international project.
Examining a corpus of hitherto largely unexplored English and German scientific poems will shed light on an important cultural facet of the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. In addition to vernacular and neo-Latin scientific poetry dealing with topics from blood transfusion to flight theory, the project will explore a body of unknown and largely manuscript poetry by women such as Anne Southwell, Dorothy Calthorpe and Jane Barker, some of whom formulated and applied theological and scientific knowledge in surprising ways. Klaeger emphasises: "This means we are closing a gap, because although research has been studying the 'poetics of knowledge' for some time now, it has so far concentrated primarily on the vernacular prose of later periods, and on male authors. In contrast, the project aims to highlight the important contribution of early modern women poets." Another blind spot in research that will be addressed is the circulation of poetic and scientific knowledge between England and Germany during the European Early Enlightenment.
The project is supported by the DFG and the AHRC as part of a programme to promote German-British research cooperation. In addition to Klaeger, Prof Dr Hania Siebenpfeiffer from the University of Marburg, Prof Dr Kevin Killeen from the University of York and Dr Cassandra Gorman from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, are also involved. The project will start on 1 April 2024, and a conference in Bayreuth at the end of 2024 will present some initial findings.