Science as Writing

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Science as Writing
For many years it has been assumed that a great gulf exists between science and the humanities, that the writings of science are simply the record of things scientists do and find and are devoid of literary features. Recently this assumption has been challenged by those who regard science and literature as companion endeavors, working side by side to describe, in their respective ways, the world of human experience. Now David Locke, a professor of literature who has also been a scientist, joins the debate, arguing that scientific language can be highly imaginative, expressive, and self-conscious and demonstrating for the first time how the major modes of literary criticism can be keys to the reading of scientific texts. Locke takes up in sequence six critical perspectives on reading. These view literary texts as: essentially representation of the real world; an expression of its author's thoughts and feelings; an activator of response from its readers; a work of art, interesting in its purely formal properties; an artifact situated in a social milieu; or an instrument that brings the world of phenomena into being. Locke applies these perspectives to the reading of a variety of scientific texts, from works by Galileo and Darwin to writings in contemporary molecular biology and theoretical physics. Locke suggests that attention to the literary qualities of scientific discourse will aid in further opening up the literary canon and widening the practice of literary criticism, even as it sharpens science's growing interest in, and understanding of, its own mode of operation.
Publication Date: 
October 11, 2000