The Nuclear Muse provides the most careful and responsible attempt to apply literary critical techniques to scientific work that I have encountered. Canaday has a rich and complex sense of the issues and enters them not with some ideological charge against science, rather with a rich understanding of it, and a commitment to understand the complications of its interactions with the culture at large. This is an intellectual and narrative tour de force.
Canaday is a subtle and relentless reader of prose, a critic who sets every word within a cultural tradition, who recognizes its place in the particularities of its moment, and who follows its nuances out into implications often beyond the control of any user. He has, with all his fine historical knowledge and responsibility to the fact, a literary sensibility, and it is that sensibility that works in teasing out the implications of the language the scientists used both in technical and in popular papers.
This is a unique, a distinctive, a very valuable book. It tells us new things. It looks in new ways.
George Levine Kenneth Burke Professor of English at Rutgers University and Director of the Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture
The existence of 'the bomb' as a literary device is, Canaday demonstrates, as significant as its military and political reality. A fascinating and literate glimpse at the words, metaphors, texts, and subtexts that have shaped our nuclear age.
Richard Wolfson Physicist and author of "Nuclear Choices: A Citizen's Guide to Nuclear Technology"
Canaday's interesting and insightful study has added a fourth dimension to our understanding of how we 'learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.'
Martin J. Sherwin Walter S. Dickenson Professor of History at Tufts University and author of "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer"
Physicists in the first half of this century became caught up in knowledge, ways of doing science, military projects, and in social consequences that pushed their means of representation and understanding to the limit. John Canaday's important study reveals how physicists adopted literary modes of expression to come to terms with the worlds they were making and transforming.
Charles Bazerman author of "Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science"
A central problem of modern thought, how the way we describe the world affects our understanding of it, arises nowhere more dramatically than in relation between literary and scientific languages. The Nuclear Muse is a revelatory exploration of this relation which John Canaday analyzes with an exceptional sophistication combining analytical rigor and a wonderful aesthetic and moral sensibility.
Myra Jehlen Board of Governors Chair of Literatures, Rutgers University