JCJC SHS 3 - JCJC : Sciences humaines et sociales : Cultures, arts, civilisations

Crossed Histories : a literary history of sciences and a scientific history of literature during the nineteenth century (Europe and United States – HC19


Crossed Histories in the nineteenth century : the history of literature from a scientific point of view and the history of science from a literary point of view

The gap beetwen sciences and literatures

Our aim is to study the way (political and historical) by wich the idea of the two cultures became an evidence in nineteenth century France and Europe; to show how powerful and important the references of literary works or of literature may be for the constitution of scientific disciplins, and to construct a classification of the relationships beetwen sciences and literatures.

Organization of regular closed workshops to collect all the texts from writers or scholars where the do define the history of the other sphere.

We're writing a complete anthology. A collection called «Science and literature« has already been created (Garnier Editor). Our reserch group will organize five workshops during the next Congress of the AILC. We're working on a theoretical book and trying to create new theorical notions.

We hope to offer to students in literature new corpus and texts; to demonstrate the epistemological fonction of literature and to make the theroy of fiction progress by comparing the nature of scientific and literary fictions. We're trying to imagine pedagogical models too.

Cf. : a list of all the communication, articles and individual books already performed. We've invented the programm of the Agregation of Lettres Modernes (2011) in Comparative LIterature : «Savoirs dans la fiction, fiction du savoir«.An internatonial symposium will be organized at the Université d'Artois (from the 18th till the 21st september 2013) : «Transliterary : Belles Lettres, sciences and literature«.

In 1818, in his nomination speech at the French Academy, Georges Cuvier developed a three Ages-theory of the consequences of scientific progresses on literature. The first Age was the one of the "inspiration" to which belonged not only Marot but Dante, Milton and Chateaubriand; then came the Age of the "explanation" when Corneille forshadowed Pascal whose Provinciales gave birth to the Age of the "description" ,embodied by Buffon or Delille. In 1909, the mathematician Henry Poincaré delivered his nomination speech which was a commentary of Sully Prud'homme's life and poetic work : the poet was considered as a philosopher and as an ideal scientist; behind the scientific biogphy appeared a kind of autobiography. Some scientists have, during the nineteenth century, imagined new literary forms, new major references and new definitions of literature based on their own conception of the sciences they were practising. This remark gave birth to the project of the "Crossed Histories during the nineteenth Century".
"HC 19" aims to work out an history of sciences from the writers' points of view and, at the same time, a history of literature from the point of view of the contemporary scientists. Against the well-known idea of a real splitting of the scientific and the literary fields during the nineteenth century, it must be observed that this division took place in texts and discourses where scientists and writers refered to each other.
These "crossed Histories" can't be based on a retrospective definition of the scientific domains concerned; studying the way writers or scientists deal with sciences and literatures and define them, may lead to the elaboration of a chronology of the influence and evolution of literary or scientist theories or discourses on texts which belong to the other sphere. Descriptive sciences may have a specific importance, as well as any science which describe its discoveries; but the solutions found by those who spread sciences like mathematics to inscribe their modelled results in a literary form must retain our attention.
"HC 19" aims to gather the major figures of writers used by scientists as examples, to study and classify the literary forms and critical notions with which scientists qualify their own works, and to throw light on the moving frontiers of "literarity" and "scientificity". On the other side (or, on what is considered as the other side), could appear a kind of scientific library for writers. The development and evolution of a possible "pantheon" of literary or scientific figures and works will have to be critically observed, as well as its differences with the contemporary pantheons accepted by the other-sided specialists. Studying the relationships between sciences and literatures needs a comparative and literary approach; european and american writers or scientists may have influenced, thanks to translations for instance, scholars from other countries. Literary methods are the only way for judging the literarity of a scientific text or discourse and the scientificity of a literary or critical work.

Project coordinator

Madame Anne-Gaëlle WEBER (UNIVERSITE D'ARTOIS) – weber.agdom@free.fr

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 140,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

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