Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Paul Schmidt

Second Advisor

LeeAnne Richardson

Third Advisor

Randy Malamud


This dissertation examines two of the various literatures of energy in Victorian Britain: the scientific literature of the North British school of energy physics, and the poetic and prose literature of Gerard Manley Hopkins. As an interdisciplinary effort, it is intended for several audiences. For readers interested in science history, it offers a history of two terms – stress and strain – central to modern physics. As well, in discussing the ideas of various scientific authors (primarily William John Macquorn Rankine, William Thomson, P.G. Tait, and James Clerk Maxwell), it indicates several contributions these figures made to larger culture.

For readers of Hopkins’ poems and prose, this dissertation corresponds with a recent trend in criticism in its estimation of Hopkins as a scientifically informed writer, at least in his years post-Stonyhurst. Accordingly, this dissertation presents readings of Hopkins’ poetry and prose in light of developments in Victorian energy physics. Three claims span the chapters pertaining to Hopkins’ oeuvre: First, that Hopkins’ distinctive terminology of stress and instress expresses the energetic relations between objects. Second, that Hopkins’ metaphors and analogies are unusual in that they often signify literal relationships between things compared, particularly when metaphysical forms of stress or instress are likened to physical forms of energy. And third, that in Hopkins’ writings the natural world and the supernatural order of creation are contiguous, and that energy suffuses both.