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  • Introduction:The Interactive Relations Between Science and Technology and Literary Studies
  • Ning Wang (bio)

As we know, humanities and science and technology are two entirely different fields of knowledge, which appeal to different research methodologies. Since the ancient time, there has been such a relative consensus: science and technology is mostly opposed to humanities although occasionally not necessarily so, especially to literature and literary studies. People usually hold that in speaking of science and technology, the more recent, the better or more advanced. It is true that in evaluating a scientific or technological result, we may say that the discovery or research result has made a disruptive breakthrough that has completely replaced all the previous achievements. But it is not always necessarily true of humanities research results. In evaluating an achievement of the humanities studies, we often emphasize its inheritance and development of the ideas of its predecessors.

In the Western humanities academia, if someone has a good command of Greek and Latin, he would be highly respected and admired by his colleagues and students for his profound learning and wide knowledge. In the Eastern countries, if a scholar understands Sanskrit or ancient Chinese, other people will admire him for his attainment in classics. So that is why people have got an opposite consensus on the humanities: the older the better. For the older ones have been historically proved valuable or correct and therefore become canonized, whereas the new ones have not yet experienced historical test and selection, the value of which cannot be adequately judged. That is why we always start from Homeric epics and Greek tragedies and comedies in teaching Western literature, and from Book of Poetry in teaching [End Page 585] Chinese literature. Of course, in the European Renaissance period, there did appear quite a few erudite people who were very good at both science and humanities. And in other periods there were some writers who write about the topics of science and technology, hence we have science fiction as a border-crossing genre. But after all, such men of profound learning and interdisciplinary knowledge plus superb imagination are indeed very rare. Most people are good only at one area of learning or field of representation. That is why people have gradually reached such a consensus: science and technology are naturally opposed to humanities. You cannot do both well unless you are a genius.

It is no doubt that from a humanistic perspective, or more specifically, from a literary point of view, we usually think that science and technology has little to do with literature and literary studies, let alone other disciplines of the humanities. It is certainly true to some extent as the quality and function of the two are largely different. But if we seriously consider this from a new perspective of the interactive relations between science and humanities, we may well find that literature and literary studies do have some relations with science and technology: both opposite and dialogic. For example, the rise of the genre of science fiction, which is now increasingly relevant to our life and attractive to literary scholars, is a typical genre combining science and technology with literary imagination and creation. To those elite writers and literary scholars in the traditional humanistic sense, science fiction does not represent the mainstream of literary creation. So they tend to neglect its value and impact on our life and literary production. Partly due to their dissatisfaction with the current high-technological approach to literature and art studies, which has raised a severe challenge to traditional humanistic approach to literary studies, and partly due to the slow reaction of humanities scholars and writers to the most advanced technology that has changed their life as well as the ways of research and writing, they even undervalue the function of technology in humanities and literary studies. As for this, we edit this special issue in an attempt to confront this challenge and try to prove that these two, science and technology and humanities, are possibly complementary.

Readers will easily find that several authors in this issue deal with science fiction, especially the recent rise and popularization of science fiction in China, with some eminent authors winning...


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pp. 585-594
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