ENGL 391(F) Imagining Scientists

Scientists tell one kind of story about themselves and their work; biographers, historians of science, and science writers, looking in from the outside, tell another; imaginative writers who use scientists' lives as subject matter yet another. In this discussion class, we'll explore stories about scientist's lives (both real and invented) told from many different perspectives. No formal training in science is required, although an interest in science would be helpful; we'll be looking primarily at how genre and language shape our perceptions of scientists and their work. Texts will range from nineteenth-century visions of scientists (Frankenstein and an early H.G. Wells story) through more recent portraits, including stories by Joanna Scott, A.S. Byatt, and others; memoirs such as James Watson's The Double Helix and Oliver Sacks's Uncle Tungsten; novels such as Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams, Ellen Ullman's The Bug, and Simon Mawar's Mendel's Dwarf; and Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen. Where possible, we'll parallel imaginative and nonfiction accounts to see how and why they differ. Writing assignments will be both critical and, for those who choose, creative: the final paper may be either a discussion of a novel, story, or play and some supporting nonfiction materials-or, for those interested in imaginative writing, a "life in science." The subject might be someone known to the student (even a self-portrait), an historical figure, or an imaginary figure; the form might be a story, a scene from a play, a memoir, or a biographical essay. Format: discussion/seminar. Requirements: active class participation; several short critical papers (2 to 3 pp); one long paper or creative work (8 to 12 pp). Prerequisites: a 100-level English course, except 150, or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limit: 25 (expected: 25 ). (Post-1900)