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La poésie scientifique de 1792 à 1939, disparition d'un genre et reconfiguration d'une frontière – Euterpe

Submission summary

EUTERPE aims to gather, analyze and publish documents about the end of «Scientific Poetry» in French, a literary genre which has ceased to exist, and whose disappearance took place at a time when relations between poetry and sciences underwent major changes. In charge of praising, spreading and commenting scientific or technical knowledge, scientific poetry used to be a respected and abundant genre from Antiquity and the Renaissance till the end of the classical period of French literature. Then, however, poetry ceased to appear as a discourse especially fitted to convey scientific notions. On the contrary, it seemed to be the worst possible form. Scientific poetry, deemed both non-poetic and non-scientific, was progressively discounted and then thoroughly rejected by poets and the reading public. At the same time, both poetry and science created new representations of themselves, based on a mutual opposition, which our own time has maintained to the point that most people today ignore the very possibility of a genre combining both. Therefore, the end of scientific poetry was not only a major event in the history of literature (a genre died); it also took place at the center of the process by which science and literature have constructed their own modernity, based on an antagonism which still structures contemporary culture. Our project aims at linking those two aspects, by studying both the scientific poems published between 1792 and 1939, and their social and critical context. This inquiry is necessary. Numerous scientific poems were still being published during the period, and the issues raised by the genre were addressed in a brilliant theoretical discussion, with texts by such writers as Staël, Hugo, Queneau, and also by men of sciences). Yet, the last study dedicated to the question goes back to 1917. EUTERPE sets as its objectives to inventory this poetic and theoretical production, then to analyse its premises and ambitions, its forms and reception, and to try to understand the reasons – literary, intellectual, social and historical – why scientific poetry has vanished from the literary and critical canon. The proposed team of researchers, both interdisciplinary and international, is comprised of poetry specialists, whether historians or theoreticians, as well as of specialists of relationships between literature and the sciences, with the help of historians and sociologists of science. It will first construct the historiographical archive which will form the documentary basis for the investigation. Publication will follow to make available the most significant pieces, including monographs, works found in periodicals as well as public and private archives bearing testimony of exchanges between poets and scientists. Most documents will be scanned under a convention to be established with Bibliothèque nationale de France and the UMS CAPHÉS (Centre d'archives de philosophie, d'histoire et d'édition des sciences), and published online on a proprietary web portal. Some will be published in a printed anthology. The EUTERPE team will convene for seminars and study meetings on a regular basis in order to systematically study various aspects of scientific poetry, according to a chronological and thematic set-up. This historical and theoretical effort is part of a larger movement which aims to foster a better understanding of relations between literary and scientific cultures in general within modern societies, a movement with numerous participants in several countries. EUTERPE will contribute in its own original way to this new field of research as it will make available a mass of new, previously inaccessible, documents; it will help advance the theory and methods of cultural history.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 130,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

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