Without a robust study of literature there can be no adequate
reckoning of the human condition – no full understanding of art,
culture, psychology, or even of biology. As Binghamton University
biologist David Sloan Wilson says, “the natural history of our species”
is written in love poems, adventure stories, fables, myths, tales, and
The study of literature is worth doing – and worth doing
well. No one should be content to watch it fading gently into that good
I’m not the first to argue for a closer engagement of
literary studies with science. For instance, in his famous 1959 essay
on “The Two Cultures,” the British physicist and novelist C.P. Snow
lamented the scientific ignorance of “literary intellectuals,”
identifying it as a main reason for the yawning divide between the
cultures of literature and science.
But I would go beyond Snow’s
suggestion that literary scholars should know more about science.
Literary scholars should actually do science. —Jonathan Gottschall