ENGL 200 C: Reading Literary Forms

Astride the Divide: Poetry and Science in Early Modernity

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 11:30am - 12:20pm
CDH 105
Sam Hushagen

Additional Details:

English 200
Instructor: Sam Hushagen
Office Hours Autumn Quarter: M/W 1-2 and by appointment

Astride the Divide: Poetry and Science in Early Modernity

The disciplinary divide between literary study and the sciences, between knowledge of making (or poesis) and speculative knowledge seems inevitable from our contemporary vantage. After all, the dispute between poetry and philosophy was old enough that Plato in The Republic could refer to it as an “ancient quarrel.” And while recently some have tried to make STEM into STEAM by smuggling in the arts between engineering and mathematics, the disaggregation of aesthetic and scientific education appears to us natural, even inevitable. But what is the history of this separation? By what modes of speciation were poetic and scientific knowledge distinguished from one another, and how did the contemporary understanding of these “two cultures,” emerge?

 These are just a few of the questions that this course will explore as we study the history of the divide between science and poetry, taking its historical emergence in early modernity as our test case. Through readings in the history and philosophy of science, primary scientific research, and poetry we will explore continuities between scientific and poetic knowledge, and study what makes them different. While studying an earlier historical period we will pay special attention to the ways that contemporary disciplinary training reinforces Plato’s “ancient quarrel” by inducing students into disciplinary forms and habits of research. Consequently, questions of method and inquiry figure prominently in course readings. I will ask you to reflect in informal written assignments on your own disciplinary training as we go.

This course meets a writing requirement (a "W" course) and consequently you will be asked to write multiple 400-500 word paragraph commentaries in addition to a midterm and final of 4-6 pages. The shorter writing assignments are designed to lead into the longer papers and afford opportunities to practice the skills of slow, deliberate and focused reading and writing that will be essential to successful longer papers. No previous knowledge of philosophy of science or of poetry is required.

Catalog Description: 
Covers techniques and practice in reading and enjoying literature in its various forms: poetry, drama, prose fiction, and film. Examines such features of literary meanings as imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense. Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:31pm