The essay confronts the statutes of literature and science. In the relationship between the two cultures, it is almost always literature who tries assimilating scientific discourse. Literature can deduce from science contents, language, methods. One characteristic of writer scientists, or double talents, and in general of those who are sensitive to the sciences, is the meta-discursive attitude, the propensity to reflect on the relationship between literature and science. Recently there have been two periods in which bibliography in literature and science has witnessed a steep rise: in England during the Victorian era and, at a planetary level, after the publication of Charles Snow's pamphlet on the «two cultures». The essay examines these debates that have helped to clarify better the operative statutes of science and literature. As a result, one can say that it is no longer possible to contrast science and literature «by means of the classic dichotomies between, for instance, the world of values and that of facts, subjective versus objective, or intuitive versus deductive», as Thomas Kuhn said. Intuition, imagination, fancy, making metaphors, rhetoric, are thus judged pertaining not only to the poet, but also to the scientist. A proving example of how science uses rhetoric and, in a broad sense, literature and the care for the aesthetic components of a text is given by the works of Galileo. On the other side, the example of how science can be put at the service of literature is that of Primo Levi, whose exhortation is to watch «the world under unusual light, inversing, so to speak the instrumentation, and visiting things belonging to technique with the literary eye, and literature with the technical one».

The Love-Hate Relationship of Literature and Science

BATTISTINI, ANDREA
2010

Abstract

The essay confronts the statutes of literature and science. In the relationship between the two cultures, it is almost always literature who tries assimilating scientific discourse. Literature can deduce from science contents, language, methods. One characteristic of writer scientists, or double talents, and in general of those who are sensitive to the sciences, is the meta-discursive attitude, the propensity to reflect on the relationship between literature and science. Recently there have been two periods in which bibliography in literature and science has witnessed a steep rise: in England during the Victorian era and, at a planetary level, after the publication of Charles Snow's pamphlet on the «two cultures». The essay examines these debates that have helped to clarify better the operative statutes of science and literature. As a result, one can say that it is no longer possible to contrast science and literature «by means of the classic dichotomies between, for instance, the world of values and that of facts, subjective versus objective, or intuitive versus deductive», as Thomas Kuhn said. Intuition, imagination, fancy, making metaphors, rhetoric, are thus judged pertaining not only to the poet, but also to the scientist. A proving example of how science uses rhetoric and, in a broad sense, literature and the care for the aesthetic components of a text is given by the works of Galileo. On the other side, the example of how science can be put at the service of literature is that of Primo Levi, whose exhortation is to watch «the world under unusual light, inversing, so to speak the instrumentation, and visiting things belonging to technique with the literary eye, and literature with the technical one».
The Art of Discovery. Encounters in Literature and Science
31
43
Battistini A.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/93394
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