The Muse of the Lens

The Muse of the Lens

Microscopes, Telescopes and Poetic Imagination in 17th- and 18th-Century England

Ivana Bičak

19 May 2022 – 5 PM (CET)

In the seventeenth century, human vision was technologically enhanced with the invention of the telescope and then of the microscope. Scenes of wonder emerged as the assisted eye traversed the night skies or delved into the fabric of the minute: new stars and planets appeared at the end of Galileo’s tube and entire oceans were discovered in a drop of vinegar.

This talk examines the effect of the telescopic and microscopic gaze upon English poetic production in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Tapping into archival and previously neglected sources as well as more famous literary works, the talk discusses the responses of wonder, satire, and philosophical reflection in both English and Neo-Latin verse on ‘Optick Glasses.’
From an elephant turned mouse to a louse turned monster, these poems evince preoccupation with bodily forms and Ovidian transformations. Inspired by the Muse of the Lens, contemporary poetry thus expands and moulds its imaginative worlds, revealing its inextricable link with science in the period.

About the Speaker ...

Ivana Bičak is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of English Studies at Durham University. She holds a PhD in eighteenth-century English literature from the University of Leeds.

She works on early modern English poetry on contemporary scientific topics. Her corpus includes both English and Neo-Latin verse of the period. After holding the Research Fellowship at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies in Innsbruck and Durham International Junior Research Fellowship, she was a departmental research fellow (Wellcome-funded) at the University of Exeter, where she worked on early modern satire of experimental medicine in Spain.

She also won the Santorio Fellowship for Medical Humanities and Science. The Royal Society Lisa Jardine Grant provided funding for her research at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen. She has published in Renaissance Studies, The Seventeenth Century, and Milton Quarterly.

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