SSI1 146

Two Cultures: Turncoats and Double Agents in the War Between Science and the Humanities

In 1959, scientist and novelist C.P. Snow gave a series of lectures, entitled The Two Cultures, at Cambridge University, describing what he viewed as the growing cultural distance between scientists and literary intellectuals. The lectures were particularly critical of what Snow perceived as a deep scientific ignorance on the part of many humanists. Snow's comments sparked lively response on provocative questions about the relationship between art and technology. For example, to what extent is science a "humanistic" activity? Is it possible to be a humanist ignorant of science and technology? Can great art come from a consciousness primarily concerned with technical matters? Can we contribute to the betterment of the human condition without science and technology? This course explores questions raised by The Two Cultures through the literary and critical works of writers with roots in one of several technical fields, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. Authors include Alfred North Whitehead, Loren Eisely, Ernesto Sabato, Primo Levi, Henri Poincare, Stephen J. Gould, and Vladmir Tasic, among others. Students consider how the technical informs the literary, in terms of both authorial motivation and the power, meaning, and value of works of art. Affiliate department: Math and Computer Science.