Sunday, November 28, 2010

Science is Culture

I'm currently reading a collection of discussions between scientists and artists (and sometimes, if not often, scientist-artists) entitled Science is Culture. I'll go ahead with the strong opinion that no department of academia can afford to separate itself from another and declare absolute sovereignty over its' productions. Science is Culture does a great job of forcing the two seemingly disparate worlds of science and the arts together--don't let the title mislead you into thinking that the contributors see the arts as nothing more than quantitative data--and I think this sort of renaissance, this science-art instead of science/art, has the potential to alter English discourse and offer some very interesting (and very new) ways of critically theorizing.

There is also, of course, the danger of certain renegades turning each twist of narrative or plot into quantitative data and compiling a sort of mathematical literary theory that does nothing but offer patterns of change. But I think (if we really do study literature and not just theory; I've noticed in my honors seminar that theory takes precedence over art) being informed by, for instance, neurological processes could lead to some amazing appreciations of literature. And, at least for me, the only reason I'm putting up with so much theory is so I can feel more interconnected with literature, as if each school of criticism is a medical tool that can help me both dissect and sew up novels. And perhaps art--if we assume art to be what is unsayable, or unthinkable, or what hasn't be said or thought--could inform the sciences by making the internal external, or, study-able, able to be scrutinized.

I suppose what Science is Culture has really done for me is instill a vehemence toward any professor that wants to keep things separate. I imagine myself asking any given professor her thoughts on where art and science intersect (i.e. how do you think biology informs literature?) and, should the answer be one of segregation, I'll storm out and throw my books and stride down the hallway like Captain Jack Sparrow!

Perhaps that wasn't the best way to lead into this question, but what do you all think of separating science and art?


  1. That was an unfair article Professor. Mainly because it's ironic. It talks about how the cognitive functions in the mind cannot process more than 3 levels, and it is rather interesting how the human mind understands novels and literature with more levels. This damn article has more than three levels.

    I think science and art should be considered, but they need to be separated like church and state. I think science has hit a, for lack of a better term, level where the word Science itself is too broad. There are way too many branches to that tree to analyze both English and "Science" the way we want to. Just keep them far away from each other. It'll help keep the confusion at bay.