Science and literature

Courant, Elsa and Enriquez, Romain. Un territoire en partage. Littérature et sciences au XIXe siècle, Épistémocritique, 2018, online publication on

In its study of the reciprocal connections between 19th century science and literature, this collection of articles puts a major emphasis on language, thus moving away from more thematic approaches. The series of articles first examines the genre of scientific poetry, as an illustration of the ability of scientific language to constitute a poetic resource, before moving on to a study of Maeterlinck’s La Vie des abeilles, as an example of scientific text whose poetic qualities turns it a literary piece. The stylistic and generic porosity between science and literature is further explored through the genre of the realist or naturalist novel, in which the narration incorporates elements of scientific discourse and methods. A case study of Zola reveals the scientific influences behind his work, especially that of Claude Bernard, and his experimentations on sociological theories. The notion of types that emerges in his novels is then further explored through a comparison between the genre of “physiologies” and that of dictionaries and encyclopaedias. The last two articles respectively provide a reflection on the value of metaphors in De l’intelligence – an essay by Hippolyte Taine in which the author criticizes the use of images in psychology while himself relying on a new set of metaphors – and the influence of science on the methods and style of 19th century literary criticism.

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