Burble Tensors on Cross-Disciplinary Manifolds of Love!
So I’ve been asked to elaborate on my rather dim view of Big Scientific Metanarratives in lit-crit circles. Fair ‘nuf, but be forewarned that I’m working against my instincts here. Right now, my instincts are telling me to keep snarking about beer.
- To begin: I apologize if I’ve made Harrison or any other of you cross-disciplinary humanists feel like you’re being put on the defensive. It’s not my intent to criticize the goals or methods of humanists who find it useful to adopt paradigms from the physical sciences – indeed, I’m still trying to figure out what those goals and methods actually are. But it’s like when you see an ad for a combination garlic press / fruit juicer / mandoline and think “Wouldn’t it be ultimately more effective to have a garlic press, and a fruit juicer, and a mandoline? Why would anyone buy this?”
- I was trying to think of a good science analogy for this earlier today, and failed.
TheOne proffered example of a project requiring in-depth knowledge of general relativity turns out to be: how novels handled epistemology’s science-induced freakouts, 1830-1950. Freaked-out epistemologists I can understand; I spent a quality summer once with Galileo and Copernicus and their immediate predecessors. Surely, though, the issue of paramount concern for novels would be folks’ conceptions of science, rather than the science itself? The fact that such conceptions are necessarily distorted views of pristine “real science” is interesting, especially when people start arguing about whose views are more distorted, but…
- It’s one thing to bring a pre-existing personal interest to bear on a problem. Asking literature students to invest a significant amount of time in higher maths is another.
- What I’m stumbling towards is: it oughta be possible to grab a physicist to answer the technical questions, and to provide peer review / editorial support for any necessary descriptions of reality (at least as reality is reflected in scientific consensus). If it’s not, this is at least partially the fault of scientists, who
- don’t appear to have an effective mechanism for earning tenure-points by doing so; and
- can’t tell the difference between legitimate work and the Sokal Hoax.
- Oh, and I wouldn’t place bets on my ability to tell the difference between legitimate work and the Sokal Hoax, either. In part, I think, because I still haven’t worked out why literary criticism needs to play at science and epistemology by addressing “real” physical reality, rather than whatever kinds of reality people happen to believe in or think about.
- Crap it’s bedtime again.
- Good night.