Loving Faster Than Light
Romance and Readers in Einstein's Universe
University of Chicago Press 2012
You were amused to find you too could fear
“The eternal silence of the infinite spaces.”
The astronomy love poems of William Empson, from which the preceding quote was taken, were just some of the many media through which people explored the ramifications of Einstein’s ideas about the cosmos in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. Masterfully incorporating a contextual sensibility of the historian of science with a sensitivity to textual texture of the literary scholar, Katy Price guides us through the ways that readers and writers of newspapers, popular fiction, poems, magazines, and essays translated and incorporated Einsteinian relativity. Loving Faster Than Light: Romance and Readers in Einstein’s Universe (University of Chicago Press, 2012) situates this popular engagement with the physical sciences within the political transformations of early twentieth-century Britain, looking at how the scientific and publishing communities attempted (with different levels of success) to use media coverage of relativity to rally the support of a wider reading public. It is a rich study that has much to offer to those interested in the history of science, of literature, and of popular culture, while helpfully complicating all of those categories.
“Fly with me then to all’s and the world’s end
And plumb for safety down the gaps of stars
Let the last gulf or topless cliff befriend,
What tyrant there our variance debars?”
*Both quotes above are from William Empson’s poems, and can be found on pages 167 and 162 of Price’s book.