Events Calendar
Feb 14
16:00 - 17:15
'When Science Becomes Literature' - Tita Chico (Maryland)
English Research Seminar series

Tita Chico (Maryland): 'When Science Becomes Literature' (Eighteenth Century)

Literariness enables writing about science as well as thinking about science, its practitioners and objects, its pedagogy and politics. Modest and immodest witnesses, observed particulars and things, the processes of learning science and governing—these subjects, objects, and institutions tell the story of British modernity with its fitful possibilities and limitations. The quality of literariness that inheres to natural philosophy as a practice, theme, and metaphor authorizes writers to imagine new definitions of evidence and new modes of authority. The figuration at the heart of literariness contains a simultaneous gesture to referent and sign that produces a way of knowing to reconcile the material and the imaginative. Science operates as such a productive and provocative metaphor in the British Enlightenment because it introduces the occasion to foreground this doubleness. Natural philosophy as a principle looks to the natural world for answers and information, and literary knowledge sees insight and wisdom beyond the material. In my talk, I content that the literary becomes an epistemological project through its relationship with natural philosophy. The development of scientific concepts and processes reciprocally provides a hidden structure for the epistemological claims of eighteenth-century aesthetics. Poetic texts that fully exploit the figurative potential of the scientific mode do so to propose the epistemological superiority of literary knowledge. This is the experimental imagination. I'll begin by talking about how natural philosophers view poetry, then move to aesthetics and James Thomson's Newtonian poem, The Seasons, in which science becomes literature. 

The talk will be followed by drinks in the School of English Common Room, Rutherford Extension. All are warmly welcome, especially postgraduate students.


Darwin College,
University of Kent,
United Kingdom


Contact: Robbie Richardson
School of English


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