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Virginia F. Smith

Science in the poetry of Robert Frost

Robert Frost’s life spanned a remarkable period of progress in science and technology. He was a teenager when the speed of light was determined; he was a young man when the theory of relativity was proposed; he was middle-aged when penicillin was discovered and was elderly when the structure of DNA was solved.  Not only did Frost live through these events and discoveries, but he strove to comprehend and internalize them in a way that few writers or poets of his time did. Frost’s interests were broad, extending from biology to cosmology and from the microscopic to the universal, and deep, delving into advanced topics such as quantum mechanics and cosmology.  As a result, Frost’s poetry is brimming with allusions to science, many of them quite sophisticated and subtle. And while Robert Frost’s conflict with the implications of modern science has been thoroughly explored and well-described by other writers and literary critics, I am more interested in how he used scientific language and imagery to expand his artist’s palette.  I would also like to use Frost's poetry to bring scientists and humanists together in a shared scholarly pursuit.

Publications

Smith, Virginia F. A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost. Clemson University Press, 2018. 

     Description of book 

     Information about purchasing book

Smith, VF. (2016) Frost on the Apple, Interdisciplinary Studies on Literature and Environment doi: 10.1093/isle/isw074 View or download

Smith, VF. (2015) The Varieties of Natural Experience: The Importance of Place Names in the Nature Poetry of Robert Frost, The Robert Frost Review 25: 87-102.

Smith VF (2010) “A Scientist’s Appreciation for Robert Frost,” The Robert Frost Review 25: 23-38.  

Podcast Interview

Listen to interview about the book on "The Poet and the Poem," a podcast sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by the poet Grace Cavalieri. The interview was recorded in Washington DC in August of 2018.

 Click here to listen to interview (28:53)

Invited Talks

"Robert Frost: Farmer-Poet-Scientist." The Robert Frost Farm Literary Series, Derry, NH, 5 August 2018.

"A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost," The Friends of Robert Frost lecture series at the Stone House Museum, South Shaftsbury, VT June 11, 2017.

“The Importance of Place Names in the Nature Poetry of Robert Frost,” Panel on Robert Frost and Environmentalism, 86th Annual Conference of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, Atlanta, Ga, 7 November 2014. 

“Acquainted with the Night: Backyard Astronomy in the Poetry of Robert Frost,” The Robert Frost Society panel, 25th Annual Conference on American Literature, Washington DC, May 2014.

“Frost on the Apple,” The Robert Frost Society symposium, 23rd Annual Conference on American Literature, San Francisco, CA, 25 May 2012. 

“A Scientist’s Appreciation for Robert Frost,” The Robert Frost Society symposium, 20th Annual Conference on American Literature, Boston, MA, 21 May 2009.

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