The Poetry of Logic and the Logic of Poetry, 1895-1931


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation investigates the relationship between modernist poetry and symbolic logic. Logicians and poets in America and England, in close contact during the early twentieth century, both understood semantics as intimately entwined with syntax and believed in formalist, abstract language as a valuable tool for describing the world. They converged particularly at a shared concept of coherence. For logicians, coherence became the endpoint of an Icarian quest to reinscribe discourses from physics to phenomenology in logic’s symbolism, a quest that collapsed into coherentist paradoxes. Poets received these paradoxes as imperatives to reconsider coherence’s value in formalist and symbolic projects, from logical doctrines to lyric poems. In turn, logic’s paradoxes galvanized modernist poets to imagine new forms of coherence between their poems and the worlds those poems describe.