The Roots of Objectivity and Scientific Language

R1A (Section 3) :  English Composition through French Literature in Translation
Fall 2018
Class No: 25267
T. Blakeney


Texts: Ezra Klein, “The Sam Harris Debate”

Samuel George Morton, Crania Americana

Claude Bernard, An Introduction to the Study of Scientific Medicine

Nouvelle Iconographie de la salpêtrière

Émile Zola, “The Experimental Novel”

Émile Zola, Thérèse Raquin

Georges Perec, “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris”

Course Description:

This course will trace the discursive roots of the modern forms of scientific knowledge. Why are some forms of knowledge deemed “scientific” while others are not? What kinds of linguistic practices make a text appear objective? What methods? Does our definition of objectivity change over time? How does scientific knowledge relate to state power? How can literary reading methods be applied to scientific texts, and what can we learn from these close readings?

We will read and analyze wide variety of primary texts: modern scientific articles, 19th-century pseudoscientific texts in the fields of phrenology and early psychology (Morton and Charcot), 19th-century texts that are still considered scientific today (Bernard), and the texts of several literary authors who claim that their texts are scientific (Zola) or mimic scientific writing in their literary work (Perec). These will be supplemented by brief theoretical texts that will help frame our readings.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes