The Roots of Objectivity and Scientific Language
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 whose work engages with scientific objectivity in different ways. These will be supplemented by brief theoretical texts that will help frame our readings.
Ezra Klein, “The Sam Harris Debate”
Claude Bernard, An Introduction to the Study of Scientific Medicine
Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Bloom
Georges Perec, “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris”
Francis Ponge, The Nature of Things
Rouch and Morin, Chronicle of a Summer (1961)