Postgraduate Course: Science and Religion in Literature (THET11037)
|School of Divinity
|College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)
|SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
|Available to all students
|An exploration of issues of 'science and religion' through the lens of literature, both prose and poetry, spanning the last two and a half millennia. The aim is to develop a critical awareness of how the tensions between science and faith have been explored by great writers to a far wider extent than either traditional literary studies or the modern field of 'science and theology' has recognised.
This course is an option within the MSc in Science and Religion, but is available to other postgraduate students interested in ways that the Science-Religion dialogue can be explored through literature. The course represents a substantially new direction in the Science and Religion field. Thus far, the field has been dominated by philosophy and its approaches, as the effective mediators between science and religion. The interplay between spiritual and material realities has been approached largely using the techniques of linear argument and logic. Recognising with Wittgenstein and others that language is at the heart of all human reasoning and cognition, this course explores the potential to create a new form of dialogue between science and religion, using the creative approaches of poetry and literature. This is not to generate yet another form of literary criticism, nor is it simply to appreciate literature in itself, but it is to seek to understand the crucial roles of literary devices and literary art in describing the realities both within our grasp and beyond it. The Christian tradition, for instance, makes frequent use of metaphor and simile in describing mysterious spiritual/material realities such as the ;ascension of Jesus', or the 'kingdom of God'. Believers claim that these stand for objective realities, but they are only accessible to us at present through the tricks of language. This course will seek a way into these and related issues by exploring the ways that great authors of the past have exploited language in their search for scientific and religious truth.
This course explores how works of literature, both prose and poetry, have grappled with 'science and religion' over the last two and a half millennia. Such literary explorations have a long history (an early example was Lucretius' De rerum natura). They have been particularly abundant during historical periods when there were widely-perceived tensions between 'science and religion', such as around the time of the so-called Scientific Revolution in the 16th century (thus, Donne's And new Philosophy calls all in doubt//the element of fire is quite put out) and during the so-called Victorian 'crisis of faith' (thus, Arnold's 'The Sea of Faith//Was once, too, at the full'). Such explorations are again very widespread today, although seldom recognised and studied as such (thus, Douglas Adam's Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy can fruitfully be explored this way). After an introductory survey, the module asks students to engage in close reading of particular texts to tease out how the complex interrelationship between science and religion (and indeed the variegated meaning of those two highly ambiguous terms themselves) has been treated by authors from a variety of backgrounds, and certainly from different sides of the 'faith divide'.
Student Learning Experience Information:
The course is taught by means of eleven classes, each of which includes core content presented by one of the course teachers, a student presentation, and opportunity for class discussion. Except for the very first class, each class will require a schedule of reading to be carried out in advance. Students are expected to engage critically and creatively with the reading, and to contribute to class discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Information for Visiting Students
|This is a graduate-level course. Please confirm subject prerequisites with the Course Manager.
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2017/18, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 11,
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11,
Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1,
Summative Assessment Hours 2,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
|One essay of 3,000 words (80%);
In course assessment: 1,000 word seminar presentation (20%).
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Developed a critical awareness of how issues of science and religion have been explored in a range of literary work
- Have enriched their understanding of the complex interrelationship between science and religion through their reading of a range of fiction and poetry. They will likewise have enriched their reading of a range of fiction and poetry through an appreciation of dimensions of science and faith
- Have engaged in effective cross-disciplinary reflections across theology, history, literary studies and science
- Demonstrated the ability to deliver a presentation for a seminar and to engage in constructive dialogue across a range of disciplinary backgrounds
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Dr Mark Harris
Tel: (0131 6)50 8914
|Dr Jessica Wilkinson
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227