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Science and/as Literature in Early Modern England
ENGL 253
Fall 2012 not offered
Crosslisting: SISP 253

Seventeenth- and 18th-century England saw the development and popularization of the "new science." Microscopes, telescopes, airpumps, automata, and experiments captured the popular imagination. The first important scientific societies and journals were founded, and the public learned about new discoveries through sermons and coffeehouse lectures. This course will trace the literary reaction to these cultural changes. John Donne famously worried that the "new philosophy calls all in doubt," turning the world topsy-turvy and setting the poet off on a quest for meaning. A female natural philosopher wrote utopian science fiction, and Jonathan Swift satirically skewered mathematicians and experimenters. While the best of early 18th-century nature poetry takes Newton quite seriously as it depicts the way light glimmers off objects, by the century's end William Blake villainized Newtonian thought as reductive and deadening. We will try to understand what writers found exhilarating, scary, confusing, hilarious, or important about science at this key moment of its development. At the same time, we will read this science as literature--considering, say, Francis Bacon's symbolically fraught "idols" and Robert Boyle's "literary technology," the role of poetry in spreading scientific ideas and the importance of analogy and metaphor to the very logics that structured scientific thought. The disciplines of science and literature were not as cleanly separated in this period as they are now, and we can better understand both by exploring their intersections.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ENGL
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ENGL)(ENGL-Literature)(STS)

Last Updated on APR-25-2024
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