The Human Animal: Biological Tropes in Interwar Poetry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This essay examines the influence of new biological thinking on poetry between the wars. That thinking is characterized by, firstly, a greater emphasis on the interactions of the biochemical and neurological systems, derived from the study of hormones, proteins and their role; secondly, a shift from a strictly mechanist sense of bodily engineering ( associated with Loeb, Beard and others) to a more holistic approach which stresses the interaction of the organism’s genetic makeup and environment within an evolutionary, homeostatic perspectives. The essay focuses on three representative areas: endocrinology; social entomology and the life of insects; and neoteny and evolutionary thinking. Poets considered include John Rodker, Herbert Read, William Empson and W. H. Auden.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScience in Modern Poetry: New directions
EditorsJohn Holmes
Place of PublicationLiverpool
PublisherLiverpool University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)978-1-84631-809-2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • poetry and biology
  • Neoteny
  • social entomology
  • edochrinology

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