Literature, Language, and the Rise of the Intellectual by Robin Valenza

By Robin Valenza

The divide among the sciences and the arts, which regularly appear to communicate totally assorted languages, has its roots within the method highbrow disciplines constructed within the lengthy eighteenth century. As a variety of fields of research turned outlined and to a point professionalized, their methods of speaking advanced into an more and more professional vocabulary. Chemists, physicists, philosophers, and poets argued approximately no matter if their discourses should still turn into an increasing number of specialized, or whether or not they may still target to stay intelligible to the layperson. during this interdisciplinary 2009 research, Robin Valenza exhibits how Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, David Hume, Adam Smith, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth invented new highbrow languages. through providing a much-needed account of the increase of the fashionable disciplines, Robin Valenza exhibits why the sciences and arts diverged so strongly, and argues that literature has a distinct function in navigating among the languages of alternative components of idea.

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Perhaps the best account of the historical significance of disciplinarity more generally may be read between the lines of Michel Foucault ’s extensive oeuvre.  One might take these lines of Foucault’s as the consumate description of the social and internal processes that lead to the specialization of individuals in the academic arena: The chief function of the disciplinary power is to “train,” rather than to select and to levy; or, no doubt, to train in order to levy and select all the more. It does not link forces together in order to reduce them; it seeks to bind them together in such a way as to multiply and use them.

Snow talked about two cultures. ” Feynman makes the perhaps startling claim that physics , and its brand of mathematics, not only best describes the natural world but also is the only true aesthetic representation of the beauty of that world. While his lectures provide some access to these concepts, he notes that listeners or readers will inevitably be barred full entry into the realm of beauty and truth if they lack the ability to understand the technical representations of physicists. These are fighting words, and Snow’s or Feynman’s version of the science /humanities divide begs reevaluation.

In so asserting this book’s intellectual allegiances, I refer less to the techniques of literary reading that emphasize contingency and ambiguity and more to the ecumenical nature of the discipline of English, which takes in many methodologies that are flexibly held together by the language itself. By describing the book as such, I nonetheless try to resist making imperial claims about my home discipline – or any other – of the sort that drew sparks in the friction between Habermas and Derrida .

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