Science and literature: Are the knowledge wars finally over?


Abstract


Since alchemy first challenged the authority of the Church, the relative status of specialized, scientific knowledge and high culture has been hotly contested. For centuries writers, as champions of culture, have retaliated against the claims of science by satirising its practitioners as being either evil, obsessive and possibly mad, or foolish and inept inventors whose experiments continually misfire. Examples of both these groups are discussed in their historical context. Around the end of the twentieth century a new genre designated «lab-lit» appeared. In this scientists are portrayed not as stereotypes but as ordinary people, pursuing science as they might any other profession within a life context and engaged with the ethical and sociological problems it involves. Reasons for the emergence of lab-lit are considered.


Keywords


scientist stereotypes; lab-lit; alchemy; knowledge; power

References


  • Blake, W., 1820. «Jerusalem». In Keynes, G. (ed.), 1966. The Complete Writings of William Blake. Oxford University Press. London.

  • Damon, S. F., 1979. A Blake Dictionary. Thames and Hudson. London.

  • Duncan, E. H., 1968. «The Literature of Alchemy and Chaucer’s “Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale”». Speculum, 43(S): 636-637. DOI: <10.2307/2855324>.

  • Haynes, R. D., 1994. From Faust to Strangelove: Representations of the Scientist in Western Literature. Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore/London.

  • Haynes, R. D., 2006. «The Alchemist in Fiction: The Master Narrative». HYLE: International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, 12: 5-29.

  • Peters, H. P., 2014. «The Two Cultures: Scientists and Journalists, not an Outdated Relationship». Mètode Sciences Studies Journal, 4: 163-169. DOI: <10.7203/metode.80.3043>.

  • Rohn, J., 2009. «More Lab in the Library. Nature, 465(7298): 552. DOI: <10.1038/465552a>.

  • Shelley, M., 1996. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. J.P. Hunter (ed.). Norton. New York.

  • Snow, C. P., 1959. The Two Cultures. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 10 April 2014 from:.

  • Tudor, A.,1989. «Seeing the Worst Side of Science». Nature, 340(6235): 589-592. DOI: <10.1038/340589a0>.

  • Weart, S., 2001. Celluloid Scientists. BBC, 26 July. Radio 4.

  • Weingart, P.; Mühl, C. and P. Pansegrau, 2003. «Of Power Maniacs and Unethical Geniuses: Science and Scientists in Fiction Film». Public Understanding of Science, 12(3): 279-287. DOI: <10.1177/0963662503123006>.

  • Wells, H.G., 1967. The Island of Doctor Moreau. Penguin. Harmondsworth.







Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________