UnOrthodox series returns


By Lopa Banerjee, Contributor

Has anyone with a keen interest in the romantic poetry of John Keats ever thought of relating the philosophies of the poems to Einstein’s quantum theory? Conversely, has anyone pursuing the scholarly journey of physics through probability theory, quantum mechanics and the supreme mathematical reality of science ever consider embracing the poetic reality of literature?

A lecture delivered by Mathew Marx from the Department of English, showed that through finding parallels and synergies between these seemingly disparate disciplines, one could definitely come closer to identifying the nature of truth in both the poetic as well as the physical world.

Addressing the attendees on March 14 in the CPACS Collaborating Commons at UNO, Marx explained the validity of the correlation between these diverse academic interests, while making metaphysical connections between beauty, truth and the physical reality.

The lecture emphasized the fact that both 19th century romantic poetry and physics have tried to look at and unfold the mysteries and paradoxes of this physical world from different paradigms, yet both have embraced the vastness and complexity of human experience. So, while Keats was fascinated by the negative capability theory with his immortal lines: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all. Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” he accepted the beauty of an inevitable truth that becomes an esoteric, poetic truth.

On the other hand, the world of quantum physics, revolving around energy, atoms and photons, tries to find answers to the mystery and intrigue of the physical world through an intuitive, experimental understanding. He showed that studying the inner philosophy of such romantic poems reveals poetic truth to the readers and helps them interpret greater physical truths at the core of all theories of physics.

“It is just the process of discovering a different lens of truth through this practice of switching perspectives,” Marx said in an informal question and answer session following the lecture, where he explained this initiative as a post-modern perspective of making choices. He also said that as a member of the liberal arts fraternity, it has been crucial today to make connections between disciplines in order to open up new paradigms of interpreting the world. He emphasized that not only Keats, but also modern poets like W. B. Yeats or T. S. Eliot have been greatly influenced by Einstein’s theory of relativity. In today’s world where every bit of knowledge is transferable, we all should try and understand the nature of paradox while gauging the reality and the universal consciousness through both these disciplines.

“The idea is to understand one thing and its opposite, and how both can come together as a whole,” he explained, summing up this unconventional approach to studying as the pinnacle of education.

The lecture is the fourth series of ‘out of the box’ discussions and talks brought to UNO by UnOrthodox, a collaboration between Student Organization and Leadership Programs, Student Government and other campus partners. Focusing on the complex perceptions of the physical reality, the lecture will be  remembered as one that has fostered the development of honest, unconventional academic discussions within the university.