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The Department of English is pleased to announce Dr. Jennifer Burwell’s most recently published book, Quantum Language and the Migration of Scientific Concepts (MIT Press, 2018)

December 05, 2018

The Department of English is pleased to announce Dr. Jennifer Burwell’s most recently published book, Quantum Language and the Migration of Scientific Concepts, external link (MIT Press, 2018). Dr. Burwell’s previous monograph examined the political meaning of feminist science fiction. In this new work, she has turned her attention to science. The result of painstaking work with the founding texts of what is surely the most complex area of physics, Quantum Language offers a history of ideas and the migration of its concepts into other domains.

Dr. Burwell studies the questions of language and representation surrounding quantum physics that have served as a conceptual framework, and sometimes foil, for the rhetorical strategies that emerged in relation to the other revolutionary twentieth century development in atomic physics such as the splitting of the atom and the release of its immense power in the atomic bomb.

The book begins with the founders of quantum physics, German physicist Werner Heisenberg, Danish physicists Niels Bohr, and Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, whose struggles making quantum phenomenon comprehensible led them to think about the nature and limitations of language. It then takes the reader along a wild tale of conflict, manipulation, profit, and mythmaking as these ideas migrate into other domains such as Eastern mysticism in the 1970s, literary critics in the 1980s and 1990s, and contemporary hawkers of distant healing and online get-rich schemes in the twenty-first century.

Congratulations Professor Burwell!