- The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science ed. by Bruce Clark and Manuela Rossini
The publication of this important collection of essays is presented as a [End Page 300] defining moment in the consolidation of transdisciplinary convergences. Explicitly situated as the foundational text for a new field of study in its own right—Literature and Science—it is essentially a postmodern text about literary cross-disciplinary contact zones. Composed of 44 essays by leading figures in their fascinating and mostly recently emergent respective fields, and including two essays by practicing scientists, Jay Labinger and Stephen Norwick, it provides the most concise and advanced current reflection on the connections between literature and science. All in all, this collection is an exciting introduction to the intellectual work taking place at the cutting edge of transdisciplinary research. Providing an authoritative documentary base on the subject for professional scholars, it will be of immense value for cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching and research.
Divided into three parts, the discussion ranges widely. Part 1 consists of 20 essays on “co-evolutionary” conjunctions in literature and science, namely: artificial intelligence and life, alchemy, biology, chaos and complexity theory, chemistry, climate science, cognitive science, cybernetics, ecology, evolution, genetics, geology, information theory, mathematics, medicine, nanotechnology, physics, psychoanalysis, systems theory and thermodynamics. Part 2 consists of 14 essays on disciplinary and theoretical approaches in the fields of agricultural studies, animal studies, art connections, cultural science studies, deconstruction, e-literature, feminist science studies, game studies, the history of science, media studies, the philosophy of science, posthumanism, science fiction and semiotics. Lastly, Part 3 covers literature and science in different periods and cultures, specifically Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. It includes two essays on the Scientific Revolution (from Copernicus to Boyle and from Newton to Laplace) and others on Romanticism, Industrialism, Modernism and Postmodernism. For the sake of geographic, historic and cultural range, the cases of Russia and Japan are considered as noted above, although future companions could easily extend this to other cultures, places and times. In short, The Routledge Companion is an indispensable resource for appreciating the range of theoretical and disciplinary approaches used in this new discipline. Encyclopedic in nature, the essays are extremely interesting and pithy, with concisely relevant bibliographies.
For the field of Literature and Science, this is in effect the bible. It will perform the same function that two other Routledge compendiums did for cultural studies in the 1990s, namely Cultural Studies (Grossberg, Nelson and Treichler 1992) and The Cultural Studies Reader (During 1993). This lineage is important to emphasize here because of the obvious effect flagship authors from cultural studies such as Donna Haraway have had on this new and closely allied field. Accordingly, this related companion will be particularly useful for classes in cultural studies and the history of science and in honors college classes on each of the many subjects noted above. As important—if not more so if it were to be used in undergraduate or graduate science classes—is the way the topics stimulate a profound appreciation of how science has informed literature and culture. Thus, the book encourages a wider understanding of the enduring importance of literature and the humanities to science. While it will be inspirational for those working in the humanities and social sciences on science-related subjects, whether it is truly transdisciplinary or merely inter-disciplinary is open to serious debate. Transdisciplinarity would require that the study of “literature and science” advance theory and practice in science. There appears to be little or no evidence of that potential here.
Throughout the companion, the authors and editors consistently refer to C.P. Snow’s notion of Two Cultures, the notion of a complete separation of 20th-century science and literature. In this the book attempts to definitively address the Two Cultures legacy within each of the many disciplines considered. It systematically addresses issues associated with disciplinary boundaries and the languages...