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Literature and Science

ENGL 108.001
instructor(s):
MW 2-3:30pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

Today we tend to think of science as concerned with objectivity and hard facts, but it wasn't always that way. Scientists have long recognized the important role of pleasure, beauty, and the poetic in the production of knowledge about the world. This course will uncover this overlooked history. From the ancient to the modern world, we will investigate how art and science have worked together to generate new insights about the nature of reality. We will read literature concerned with finding and explaining patterns and scientific studies that creatively imagine future and alternative worlds. Did the Romantic poet Lord Byron inspire the first universal computer? Was the first observation of “Brownian movement” in a poem from the first century BC? The primary material for this course will be representations of science in novels, poems, films, and digital media. On the way we'll also think about issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. We will also explore how science is aesthetically constructed in the archive by visiting Philadelphia's outrageous cabinet of curiousities, The Mütter Museum and Penn's own Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. We will engage with digital tools, building our own online “cabinet of curiosity.”