Across the Great Divide: The Scientific Humanities and the Future of the Discipline

Cnair: Prof. Brycchan Carey, Northumbria University

Panellists:

Dr Andrew Crumey, Northumbria University

Dr Paul Frazer, Northumbria University

Prof. Clark Lawlor, Northumbria University

Jack Weatherson, Northumbria University

In his celebrated 1959 Rede Lecture, C.P. Snow lamented the divide in British intellectual life between what he called ‘the two cultures’ of science and the humanities. He placed responsibility firmly at the door of an educational establishment which privileged humanities over science. Almost sixty years on, much has changed. Literary scholars have embraced nature writing, medical discourse, science fiction, and scientific narratives and brought them firmly within the canon. Creative writers address scientific topics and portray scientists in ‘mainstream’ literary writing as well as in science fiction. Scientists, more than ever, understand the potential for literary and cultural production to express and interpret scientific knowledge and endeavour. At the same time, however, traces of the divide remain. Humanities scholars still sometimes express pride in knowing nothing of science, or being unable to do simple mathematics; scientists sometimes represent the humanities as ‘lightweight’ or as a distraction from the main challenges facing society. Clearly, the two cultures persist in some form to this day. This roundtable discussion brings together five scholars from Northumbria University’s Department of Humanities whose work in some way addresses, challenges, or transcends Snow’s notion of the two cultures. They will share their experience of researching, writing, and teaching across the ‘great divide’ and ask how the discipline can continue to adapt in both intellectual and practical ways to a future where scientific literacy and cultural awareness increasingly go hand in hand.

Friday 7th July, 3.30