© 2003

The Spiritual History of Ice

Romanticism, Science and the Imagination

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Eric G. Wilson
    Pages 1-6
  3. Eric G. Wilson
    Pages 7-69
  4. Eric G. Wilson
    Pages 71-138
  5. Eric G. Wilson
    Pages 139-215
  6. Eric G. Wilson
    Pages 217-220
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 221-278

About this book


At the end of the eighteenth century, scientists for the first time demonstrated what medieval and renaissance alchemists had long suspected; ice is not lifeless but vital, a crystalline revelation of vigorous powers. Studied in esoteric and exoterical representations of frozen phenomena, several Romantic figures - including Coleridge and Poe, Percy and Mary Shelley, Emerson and Thoreau - challenged traditional notions of ice as waste and instead celebrated crystals, glaciers, and the poles as special disclosures of a holistic principle of being. The Spiritual History of Ice explores this ecology of frozen shapes in fascinating detail, revealing not only a neglected current of the Romantic age but also a secret history and psychology of ice.


Coleridge Middle Ages Percy Bysshe Shelley Renaissance Romanticism Samuel Taylor Coleridge

About the authors

ERIC WILSON is Associate Professor of English at Wake Forest University, where he teaches courses in British and American Romanticism. He is author of Romantic Turbulence and Emerson's Sublime Science.

Bibliographic information


"Like crystalline forms, this book is weird and wondrous . . .Wilson presents his wide-ranging and energetic research in gripping, narrative fashion." - Gothic Studies

"Wilson's account is intelligent and his style eloquent. . . . . [He] is particularly insightful on optics . . .[and] his reading of literary texts is sensitive throughout." - European Romantic Review

"Wilson achieves his aim of interpreting Frankenstein, Mont Blanc, Manfred, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and pertinent works by Emerson and Thoreau in the light of discoveries within newly esoteric natural philosophy...Wilson's book is a learned and wide-ranging literary study certain to be influential in both content and method." - Studies in Romanticism

"The book assimilates a staggering number of primary sources and secondary references and strikes a balance between theoretical abstraction and practical criticism...It constitutes Wilson's best book yet." - The Wordsworth Circle