Volume 27 Number 2

Harry R. Garvin (Ed.)

Science and Literature

1983
173 pages
ISBN 0838750516
Bucknell Review

Many creative artists and thinkers reflect on the tensions that science and the scientific outlook are believed to engender. Much of the modern literature is characterized by a sense that humanity may be somehow diminished by a dominant and amoral science. The first and most instinctive response of literature to science portrays science as an alien ideology and a threat to all the arts hold dear. But a second response, giving a more positive value to sciences, sees science as lending itself to an investigation of complexity and an ordering of the disorderly. Contemporary critics, literary and artistic figures among them, have attempted to grapple with the fundamental issues science raises. The obvious questions - What is Science? How does it interact with literature and the arts? - become preliminaries to a far-reaching philosophical discourse that encompasses these two distinctly human activities. This issue of [i[Bucknell Review offers a selection of essays that discuss works illustrating all these approached to science. The first selection contains two papers that theorize about the relations of art and science. John Neubauer considers science and literature as the characteristic activities of specialized practitioners and discusses recent models for explaining the historiography of literature. James Curtis's concern is how specifically to relate the arts and science, with a study of models, structures - "receptions" for literature and science - that culminates in his development of a linguistic paradigm that has cultural analogues. The remaining papers engage in practical criticism of particular authors, works, and genres that can be distinguished by their attitude toward science. Three papers present the rather negative side. Roger Lund, in dealing with early nineteenth-century satire of the Royal Society and its supposed ideology, introduces a topic that pervades this issue, the "poem object," or in the Swiftian terms he discusses, res et verba. Bruce Herberg and Charles Krance examine how contemporary authors use the latest scientific theories as metaphors for social or personal dilemmas. A more positive attitude toward science appears in the final set of papers. Martin Karlow's study of The House of the Seven Gables argues that recent attempts to impose a narrowly Freudian psycho-analytical approach upon the work to reduce its coherence unnecessarily do violence to the concept of "modern psychology" Hawthorne speaks of in his first chapter. Lisa Steinman examines William Carlos Williams's ambivalent attitude toward science and its products. Kenneth Newell considers pattern, concrete, and computer poetry as successive offspring of the idea of the "poem as object" - an idea, we recall, that the Scriblerians long ago derided - and suggests ways that such poetry has a future as a literary activity rather than as a pure machine product. The variety of questions raised by this issue may provide some interesting suggestions for understanding the relationship between the arts and science and the ramifications in our contemporary world.

Contributors: John Neubauer, James M. Curtis, Roger D. Lund, Bruce Herzberg, Charles Krance, Martin Karlow, Kisa M. Steinman, and Kenneth B. Newell.

About the editor:

Harry R. Garvin was John P. Crozer Professor of English at Bucknell University.

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