Good Fiction, Better Science: Using the Humanities to Promote Reflective Practitioners of Science
Dr Noel Chevalier.
Can an obligatory first-year English course offer Science students more than basic writing skills and a better understanding of the sonnet? In 2000, Luther College, University of Regina, embarked on an interdisciplinary group of courses designed to facilitate dialogue between the seemingly-discrete worlds of the Humanities and the Sciences. The program groups students into common introductory Biology, Chemistry and English courses, with the English course designed to tie these various disciplinary strands together. Its basic assumption of the program is that these students, even at the first-year level, are preparing to become professionals in some aspect of Science; as such, they must begin to acquire the verbal and critical skills to allow them to understand the intellectual paradigms Science requires them to adopt.
This paper will also provide a demonstration of how literature can aid in promoting the reflective practice of Science. One of the major literary texts studied in the first-year course in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a novel that is itself interdisciplinary and intertextual. The reading of Frankenstein suggested in this course is one that challenges students to think, first, about how scientists are represented both in literary and popular culture, and, second, how the narrative itself asks questions about the place of Science in moral, political, and social contexts. The aim, therefore, is to promote skills in reading literary works themselves (e.g. by introducing concepts such as intertextuality) and in demonstrating how literature can help frame significant questions about the profession of Science.
Dr Noel Chevalier (Canada)
Assistant Professor of English
University of Regina
Noel Chevalier is a specialist in Eighteenth-Century Literature. In addition to his research interests in drama, he has also researched the role of science in the period of the French Revolution. He is also co-ordinator of the English/Science Learning Community at Luther College.
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)