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date: 26 January 2021

Literature and Sciencefree

  • Michael H. WhitworthMichael H. WhitworthFaculty of English Language and Literature, Merton College Oxford


Though “literature and science” has denoted many distinct cultural debates and critical practices, the historicist investigation of literary-scientific relations is of particular interest because of its ambivalence toward theorization. Some accounts have suggested that the work of Bruno Latour supplies a necessary theoretical framework. An examination of the history of critical practice demonstrates that many concepts presently attributed to or associated with Latour have been longer established in the field. Early critical work, exemplified by Marjorie Hope Nicolson, tended to focus one-sidedly on the impact of science on literature. Later work, drawing on Thomas Kuhn’s idea of paradigm shifts, and on Mary Hesse’s and Max Black’s work on metaphor and analogy in science, identified the scope for a cultural influence on science. It was further bolstered by the “strong program” in the sociology of scientific knowledge, especially the work of Barry Barnes and David Bloor. It found ways of reading scientific texts for the traces of the cultural, and literary texts for traces of science; the method is implicitly modeled on psychoanalysis. Bruno Latour’s accounts of literary inscription, black boxing, and the problem of explanation have precedents in the critical practices of critics in the field of literature and science from the 1980s onward.

The historicist study of the relations of literature and science is a critical practice that draws eclectically on a range of linguistic, literary, and cultural theory, and which has also been significantly informed by concepts and practices in the fields of history and philosophy of science, science and technology studies, and the sociology of scientific knowledge. These bodies of theory have crucially enabled it to overcome deeply ingrained cultural assumptions about the relative statuses of literary and scientific forms of knowledge, but its focus on historical frameworks and contingencies means that practitioners have not always fully articulated their working premises, preferring in many cases to build on the practices of their predecessors. As a field, it has been open to theory but ambivalent about theorization. Moreover, it exhibits significant internal divisions regarding methodology. In part these correspond to the periods under study, but there are also significant methodological divergences associated with North America and the United Kingdom. Although there is significant interaction between Anglophone critics as well as many exceptions to the rule, North American practice as exemplified by Configurations, the journal of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, takes a greater interest in contemporary culture, including developments such as posthumanism, visual cultures, digital humanities, programming languages, and video games; it is less interested than its British counterpart in historical literature and culture, as well as in the ways that the incorporation of science into a specifically literary discourse may transform it or call into question its authority. Since the early 21st century, the North American school has used the work of Bruno Latour to crystallize its methodological presuppositions. It is the contention of this article that although such theorization may bring methodological clarity and maintain an alignment between the field and the field of science studies, it does so at the cost of neglecting a wide range of ideas, methods, and practices that have proved fruitful in the past. However, by considering Latour and other theorists one may brings to the surface hidden theoretical assumptions in seemingly untheorized work. The present article considers a range of critical works, from 1980 to the present, but gives particular prominence to Gillian Beer’s Darwin’s Plots (1983) because Beer’s practices have been widely influential.

The phrase “literature and science” signifies many things, not all of which are considered here. One is the use of quasi-scientific methodology in literary criticism, drawing on contemporary science and particularly on the fields of neurology, evolutionary theory, and evolutionary psychology. The possibility of literary criticism building on a supposedly scientific foundation has a long history—there are examples in the Victorian era and in the early 20th century, notably I. A. Richards.1 Some of the authority of psychoanalytical and structuralist literary criticisms came from the scientific status of the specialist bodies of theory on which they drew. In that regard, critics such as Jonathan Gottschall, Brian Boyd, and Joseph Carroll are part of a longer tradition.2 Critics of them have drawn attention to the reductiveness of the method, its dependence on a selective reading of the science it draws on, and to its uncritical trust in its authority, though as Alan Richardson has noted, critics sometimes conflate distinct practices such as evolutionary psychology and cognitive criticism.3

The phrase “literature and science” also signifies a longer tradition of debate about the value of “culture” and its relation to scientific ideals of knowledge. If its rhetorical touchstones lie in the early 19th century—William Wordsworth’s line “We murder to dissect” from the poem “The Tables Turned” and John Keats’s phrase “Unweave a rainbow” from the poem “Lamia”—its canonical prose articulation came into being in the late 19th century in the debate between Matthew Arnold and T. H. Huxley.4 It continues through the 20th century in a range of lectures and essays, reaching its most familiar form in C. P. Snow’s lecture and book The Two Cultures (1959).5 Generally speaking, “literature,” “science,” “poetry,” and related terms are spoken of as ahistorical abstractions; history, if it figures at all, is present only in the form of a narrative of decline of one side or the other. Very often the debate is a coded displacement of another topic—religion for Arnold and Huxley, and social class for Snow. Methodologically, the tradition of debate has little to offer the historicist study of the two fields, but its texts are relevant insofar as they articulate a range of deeply ingrained beliefs about both and thereby represent a horizon of expectations in relation to which practitioners of historicist study need to articulate their work.

Though literature and science as quasi-scientific method and as cultural debate can be excluded on principle, there are other definitions that are not fully represented here for reasons of space. First, the field of literature and medicine has long overlapped in significant ways with literature and science, but also has distinct practices that cannot be covered here. Second, the place of technology in the field is even more vexed and unresolved, but the present article does not attempt to give a full account.

Early Practices, 1926–1978

The origins of the field can be traced to Carl Grabo’s A Newton Among Chemists (1930), a study of the place of science in the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and several works by Marjorie Hope Nicolson, including The Microscope and English Imagination (1935) and Newton Demands the Muse (1946). Behind both lay works of cultural history such as A. N. Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World (1926), which gave Grabo his title and which was also a point of reference for Nicolson, and the tradition of “the history of ideas,” as exemplified by Arthur O. Lovejoy’s The Great Chain of Being (1936). The terminology of Whitehead and the early literary critics has the flavor of its era, but certain conceptual tensions have persisted. On the one hand, the early critics often speak of systems of thought at a supra-individual level: an era’s “mentality” or “imagination” (as in “the 18th-century imagination”); such a conceptualization unites literature and science in a common field. On the other hand, critics found it necessary to speak in terms of the “impact” of science on literature, a relation that implicitly separates the two areas and that does so even when writers are granted the agency to “borrow” from science and to transform what they find. The primary questions of such early critics concerned how the concepts, images, aims, and technologies of a given science had significantly informed the literary texts of its era.

In 1978, Nicolson’s former student, George Rousseau, wrote an account of the “state of the field,” which has also been read as an “obituary” for its early form, and which has become deeply embedded in the field’s self-conception.6 Rousseau’s essay has become, at least symbolically, the point at which earlier critical practices and critical vocabularies were rejected. Rousseau divided the field between “philologists” and what he idiosyncratically called “theorists”: by theorists he meant historians of ideas who were aware of the historical changeability of definitions and who thus were reluctant to provide the monological glosses characteristic of the philological annotator; theorists were critics who advanced hypotheses about the evolution of an idea and who defended those hypotheses against alternative positions.7 In saying this, Rousseau implied that the groundwork of philology was necessary but not sufficient, but he enabled an overreaction in which it was seen as unnecessary and antiquated.

From the late 1970s onward, practitioners in the field were concerned to move beyond the asymmetrical relation that dominated earlier work in which scientific influence dominated the literary and the cultural. Such a relation seemingly reproduces the dominance of science in contemporary European and North American society and so confirms the status of literature and the arts as being at best decorative. Practitioners were also concerned to elevate their work beyond the merely philological. In 1978, there were already models for a future practice. Rousseau himself notes “The Darwinian Revolution and Literary Form” (1968) by A. Dwight Culler, where the notion of literary form lifts the perspective above that of the merely local annotation. George Levine has praised Stanley Hyman’s The Tangled Bank: Darwin, Marx, Frazer and Freud as Imaginative Writers (1962) as a study that was willing to engage in the literary analysis of scientific texts rather than treating them as transparent sources for ideas. Jacques Barzun’s Darwin, Marx, and Wagner (1958) and Morse Peckham’s Man’s Rage for Chaos (1965) have also been noted as significant antecedents.8

The field’s engagement with literary theory and with history and philosophy of science arises from the problem of how to bring science within conceptual reach of the concepts and practices of literary criticism without dissolving it as a distinct object of attention. Here, as elsewhere in this article, “science” usually means in practice a particular science in the form it took in a particular era. However, in moving beyond the asymmetry of Nicolson’s practice, the method nevertheless needs to respect the real asymmetries of a given historical moment.

The Conceptual Resources of History and Philosophy of Science

The positions within the history and philosophy of science that have been most enthusiastically absorbed within the field emphasize the changing nature of scientific theory and practice, the importance of creativity in scientific endeavor, and the role of nonscientific materials within that creativity. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) was a key reference point for many critics from the late 1970s onward. It created a new agenda for the philosophy of science, which. since 1945, had been focused largely on ahistorical questions under the influence of Karl Popper.9 Kuhn foregrounded moments of major theory change in science. While what he called “normal science” may work in an accumulative way within a “paradigm,” making small adjustments to its theoretical outlook, over the course of time scientists would become aware of anomalies in nature that did not fit the paradigm, and which could not be accounted for through minor adjustments. Such anomalies require a major overhaul of scientific theory—the “paradigm shift.” The scientist must learn “to see nature in a different way.”10 Kuhn’s focus on moments of change was important, as was the implication that at such moments scientific theorization was open to nonscientific influences. So too was his endorsement of the belief that conceptual structures create “ways of seeing” that may enable discovery or, indeed, obstruct it.11

Also influential in this regard was the idea of tacit knowledge developed by the philosopher Michael Polanyi in Personal Knowledge (1958). In the summary of critic N. Katherine Hayles, “tacit knowledge” is “in some sense known,” but “cannot be formulated explicitly.” It guides the scientist “to the interesting fact, the one datum or experiment out of thousands that will prove useful.”12 It is learned “by doing science” rather than by learning the formalized rules of science.13 The idea of tacit knowledge suggests that although much of science is carried out in a rational and logical way that conforms to the public image of the discipline, it is bounded by assumptions that are subscribed to without rational justification. It is at this boundary that cultural elements can enter into science.

Another significant source lay in philosophical and linguistic thinking about metaphor and analogy, and particularly the work of Max Black and Mary Hesse. In this regard, literary critics were required to break from a deeply embedded cultural distinction between the literal and the metaphorical in which the metaphorical utterance is viewed as a decorative supplement to a literal core of meaning. In this view, while the metaphorical formulation of an opinion or feeling may be rhetorically more persuasive, it is ultimately reducible to the literal. In such a view, in Black’s later summary, metaphors are “expendable if one disregards the incidental pleasures of stating figuratively what might just as well have been said literally.”14 In opposition to this view, Black and others advanced a cognitive view of metaphors: humans, including scientists, think through metaphors, and although metaphors can inhibit understanding, they can also assist in the modeling of reality. Once the idea of cognitive metaphor has been accepted, the distinction between metaphor and analogy becomes relatively slight, and the terms are often used as near synonyms. Griffiths, however, notes that metaphor often implies that one conceptual domain is stable and provides a model for the comprehension of another that is inchoate, while analogy—at least in some forms—allows for thinking in which both domains are reconceptualized in relation to each other.15

Mary Hesse’s Models and Analogies in Science (1963, revised and expanded 1966) took as its starting point the early 20th-century debate about scientific theorization between the French physicist Pierre Duhem and his British counterpart, Norman Campbell. Duhem had contrasted national styles of theory-making, favoring the “abstract and systematic” French style, and had deplored the British taste for mechanical models. Campbell had defended models and analogies—though not necessarily the mechanical model—as being not merely a sort of scaffolding that was removed when the theories were constructed, but instead an “utterly essential part” of them.16 Moreover, while theories in Duhem’s sense risked being “static museum piece[s],” models were dynamic and open to development.17 While it would be simplistic to equate paradigm shifts with changes of models and of metaphors, it is clear that metaphors and analogies serve “to anchor paradigms.”18 As Kuhn wrote in 1979, “Theory change [. . .] is accompanied by a change in some of the relevant metaphors and in the corresponding parts of a network of similarities through which terms attach to nature.”19

Kuhn notes that The Structure of Scientific Revolutions says very little about the role of “technological advance” or of “external social, economic, and intellectual conditions in the development of the sciences”: it is, like Hesse’s Models and Analogies, an internalist account of science.20 Nevertheless, both works enabled the approach that historicist literature and science sought, in which nonscientific external elements play a role in science in the making. The “irrationality” of the external elements is of lesser importance than their being culturally embedded.

It is perhaps surprising to find that Michel Foucault played only an ancillary role in the theorization of literature and science. The Foucault of The Order of Things (1966, translated into English in 1970) and The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969, translated into English in 1972) is mentioned in passing, and often in endnotes, as, for example, “a necessary precondition” for work in the field.21 In Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields (1976), a work of science studies that has been influential on literature and science, Donna Haraway identifies The Order of Things as being of “exceptional importance for understanding the structure of thought in apparently diverse but contemporary fields,” and Foucault’s ability to recognize analogies across fields introduced an investigatory process that was absent from Kuhn or Hesse.22 That many critics in the 1980s relegated their discussions of Foucault to endnotes while engaging with historians of science more prominently in the main text suggests they wished to align their work with Anglophone traditions in the history of science. And although there are many similarities between the field in the 1980s and the critical practices of New Historicism in the same era, the sidelining of Foucault suggests that the aspects of his work most prominent in the 1980s—the social sciences rather than the natural sciences, the asylum and the prison, and a focus on subjectivity and state power—were imperfectly aligned with the concerns of literature and science.23

Reading Science

Nicolson’s practice was to treat scientific works as transparent media, using them as windows onto ideas rather than as texts to be interpreted. From the late 1970s onward, practitioners in the field endeavored to maintain symmetry between the treatment of literature and of science by turning their attention to scientific texts. Such a practice was particularly fertile in relation to texts from the 19th century. As Beer explains, scientists in the 19th century “shared a literary, non-mathematical discourse which was readily available to readers without a scientific training. . . . Moreover, scientists themselves in their texts drew openly upon literary, historical and philosophical material as part of their arguments.”24 The privileging of the written products of science is not without its problems: it leaves unresolved whether (and how) literary critics can read the material artifacts and nonlinguistic inscriptions of science. Moreover, it raises the question of whether science writing for nonspecialist audiences (“popular science writing”) provides an adequate substitute for technical and particularly mathematical works, and, if it does, under what circumstances and with what provisos. Although material artifacts and the nonlinguistic have grown in importance, the practice of reading scientific texts remains central to the field.

As Stuart Peterfreund summarized in 1987, “one begins by ‘reading’ science for the same concomitants of figurative effect that one has heretofore read literature for.”25 Alongside that practice, however, one may read a scientific work for its explicit or implicit narrative and for a more impressionistic sense of its tone or atmosphere: Beer, in analyzing The Origin of Species alongside Darwin’s literary reading, foregrounds narratives of succession and restoration and notes how the theme of profusion is manifested in list-like sentences brimming with the names of species.26 The impression of a natural world that is simultaneously teeming with new growth and threatened with a struggle for resources is interwoven by Beer with canonical literary texts, and also works of 19th-century political economy, most prominently those of Thomas Malthus.

At times the social and literary traces in scientific texts are prominent and easily spotted, at least by the critic who has been primed to look for them, but at other times they are subtler and require more sensitive and indeed tentative reconstruction. The same applies to the traces of science in literary texts: to move beyond texts that literally depict science or scientists necessitates a more subtle and historically informed attention. At times critics have drawn implicitly on a psychoanalytical model in which the scientific text is not fully conscious of its cultural debts and the literary text is not fully conscious of what it owes to science, and in which both require the delicate questioning of the analyst to bring the repressed material to light. Beer’s words on The Origin of Species are revealing in this regard: Darwin’s text “deliberately extends itself towards the boundaries of the literally unthinkable” and Darwin never “raised into consciousness its imaginative and sociological implications.”27 She goes on to say there is “latent meaning” present in The Origin, manifested in its moments of conceptual obscurity and in metaphors “whose peripheries remain undescribed.”28 Later she writes of George Eliot’s Middlemarch as a novel “enriched by a sense of multiple latent relations which are permitted to remain latent.”29 The references to the unthinkable, to elements that cannot be raised into consciousness, and to the latent content of the text suggest, without ever explicitly specifying, the presence of Freudian psychoanalysis and of Freud’s distinction between the latent and manifest content of a dream. Beer mentions Freud in Darwin’s Plots, but as a late 19th-century and early 20th-century thinker, not as a guide to methodology. While it is possible that Fredric Jameson’s The Political Unconscious (1979) was influential in this regard, the only work by Jameson that Beer cites in Darwin’s Plots is Marxism and Form (1971); the resource on which Beer was most probably drawing was Pierre Macherey’s Pour une théorie de la production littéraire (1966, translated as A Theory of Literary Production [1978]). Macherey provides the idea of the literary work having an “unconscious” which is not equivalent to the authorial unconscious.30

The analogy between Beer’s mode of interpretation and Freud’s is not exact: if scientists and recognizable scientific terminology can appear conspicuously in a literary text, the censorship is malfunctioning. The latent content of the dream is sometimes fully manifest in a way that Freud’s unthinkable acts should not be. As Beer cautions early in her study, one need not “infer that Darwin is offering a single covert sub-text”: “Nor indeed should we take it for granted that there is an over and under text, or even a main plot and a sub-plot. The manifest and the latent are not fixed levels of text; they shift and change places according to who is reading and when.”31 But even though the topography of “under” and “over” is complex in this version of psychoanalysis, the debts are plain, as are the benefits. Such a model removes the inhibiting effect of charges of misreading in which correctness is determined by a literary scholar’s idea of the correct scientific meaning of a text. It allows for literary writers’ mistakes to be recuperated as “creative misprision,” and deflects the objection that literary critics have conflated Newton with a derivative “Newtonianism,” or Darwinism with “Darwinisticism.”32 The psychoanalytic model is not explicit: to reconstruct the theoretical affiliations of historicist practices in literature and science, one needs to read critical texts much as practitioners themselves read their scientific and literary texts, piecing together shards of discourse to conjecture the full structure.

Underlying this model of reading are particular theories and conceptions of language that go beyond the insistence that language is inescapably metaphorical. In Beer’s Darwin’s Plots, Jacques Derrida is most often invoked for his skepticism about the stabilizing effects of an origin within a structure, but he is also implicitly present in Beer’s characterization of Darwin’s language, and metaphorical language more generally, as vital and flexible: “[f]or his theory to work,” writes Beer, “Darwin needs the sense of free play, of ‘jeu’ as much, or even more, than he needs history.”33 Throughout the study, Beer deploys a rich figurative vocabulary to characterize language and metaphor: words dilate, contract, and oscillate; some kinds of metaphors “thrive,” they stretch, they expand, and they are hard to control; over a long quotation, Darwin’s metaphor of the tree is seen to “grow, develop, change, extend, and finally complete itself”; metaphor in general is “polymorphic,” with the implication of being polymorphically perverse; “its energy needs the barriers which it seeks to break down.”34 There is a theory of language implicit within these metaphors. Beer’s own figurative language surreptitiously energizes the concepts that she more formally states in the language of theory. Beer’s emphasis on vitality and instability is also a polemic against the culturally engrained figuration of scientific language as sharp, hard, and inflexible, a view that for literary criticism was codified in the New Critics’ contrast of the direct and denotative language of science with the indirect and conative language of poetry.35 Although Beer also notes moments when Darwin’s writing stabilizes meaning, as a writer she invests less in her accounts of them.

A decade or so later, Susan Squier drew on the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern’s idea of the “domaining effect”: an idea or metaphor that means one thing in one domain will subtly shift its meaning when transplanted. Habits of thought “are always found in environments or contexts that have their own properties or characteristics.” Ideas “are always enunciated in an environment of other ideas, in contexts always occupied by other thoughts or images.”36 The domaining effect presupposes linguistic flexibility, but also accounts for the newfound stability that a concept may acquire when transplanted into a new domain. One may helpfully combine Strathern’s account of domaining with Richard Rorty’s account of how a pragmatist philosopher would explain the apparent “hardness” of scientific facts: when an experimental test confirms or disproves a hypothesis, “[t]he hardness of fact [. . .] is simply the hardness of the previous agreements within a community about the consequences of a certain event.”37 In Strathern’s terms, some domains will create semantic rigidity while others will allow for flexibility. It is clear from Rorty’s account that the semantic effects are due not to an intrinsic property of the domain, but to social agreements surrounding its employment in specific professional environments.

The Social Dimension

While a synthesis of the work of Hesse, Black, Kuhn, and Foucault provided the primary guidelines for literature and science study in the decade following 1978, the direction the synthesis took was guided by newer work in the field of the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) in which the prominent theorists were David Bloor, Barry Barnes, and Harry Collins. Until around 1970, the sociology of knowledge had accepted the Popperian division between the proper domain of philosophy of science, a focus on the validation of scientific results, and of sociology, a focus on the origins of scientific ideas.38 Moreover, it had taken an asymmetrical approach to truth and error, recognizing social and ideological factors only as the causes of error in science. Under the influence of Kuhn, sociologists recognized that there was a social element in the validation of results. The so-called strong program in the sociology of knowledge emerged around 1973 and went further, seeing all aspects of science as being open to cultural and ideological influences.39 The four main principles of the strong program were concisely outlined by David Bloor. First, the sociology of knowledge had to locate “causes of belief.” Second, “no exception must be made for those beliefs held by the investigator who pursues the programme”; in investigating beliefs, the strong program was to be “impartial with respect to truth and falsity.” Third, it had to “explain its own emergence and conclusions: it must be reflexive.” Fourth, and most distinctively, “Not only must true and false beliefs be explained, but the same sort of causes must generate both classes of belief. This may be called the symmetry requirement.”40

Bloor’s demand for symmetry has much in common with the symmetry that studies in literature and science sought to achieve as they moved away from the practices of Nicolson’s generation of scholars. Although in the field of literature and science the demand for symmetry was primarily motivated by a need to defend literary writers as active thinkers, not the passive recipients of science, and to defend literature as a form of knowledge in its own right, there is a strong similarity. Insofar as literature, from the point of view of science, may seem to entertain unscientific ways of thinking or even fundamentally consist of them, it stands for the “false beliefs” that are contrasted with science; and insofar as science, from the point of view of literature, may seem to present a reductive or limited view of the world, the positions are reversed.

The consequences of the demands for impartiality and symmetry are many and extend beyond the binary of science and literature. Opening up false beliefs for investigation allows for a consideration of sciences that appeared to become dead ends in the history of science but that were significant in their own moment; and it allows for a consideration of disciplines that were never fully accepted as science, even though in some cases they organized themselves in conventionally institutionalized ways, and for a consideration of the boundary work that excluded them. It allows for the consideration of, for example, neo-Lamarckism in early 20th-century biology, the persistence of the “ether” as an epistemic object in physics, psychical research, and the persistence of the idea of alchemy in early 20th-century physics. The strong program was also attractive to critics working on more canonical scientific ideas: both Beer’s Darwin’s Plots and Levine’s Darwin and the Novelists cite Barry Barnes’s Scientific Knowledge and Sociological Theory (1974).41

By opening science to “external” influences, SSK allowed space for the research program that Rousseau had tentatively suggested in 1978: a search for the ways in which “imaginative literature shapes science.”42 The consequent difficulty was that of modeling the ways that literature and science could be simultaneously interconnected and yet distinct. From the late 1960s onward, historian Robert M. Young had hypothesized a “common intellectual context” for literature, science, theology, and other disciplines. The notion of a “common context” or “one culture” was vital in one phase of growth but, as Alice Jenkins has suggested, it is possible that the one culture was never a “historical reality” but an “imagined utopia.”43 Although some critics have dismissed Beer and Levine for adhering to a simplistic one culture model, their own methodological reflections and critical practices speak of something more complex.44 The metaphor of traffic between distinct disciplines is more productive, allowing practitioners to conceive of one-way and two-way traffic, of temporary obstructions and diversions, and of unequal flows in each direction.45 Nevertheless, because of the preference for symmetry, “bidirectional flow is almost always seen as more prestigious and more defensible than unidirectionality.”46

Weighing the Importance of Latour

Since 2016, several overviews of the field have given a central place to science studies and have equated science studies with the work of Bruno Latour.47 The focus on science studies underplays the continuing significance of longer-established intellectual resources deriving from the history and philosophy of science; the equation of science studies with Latour neglects the influence of the longer tradition of science studies that began with the establishment of the Science Studies Unit at the University of Edinburgh in 1964, from which grew the strong program. In the field of literature and science, the most often-cited works by Latour begin with Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts (1979), coauthored with Steve Woolgar, an anthropological study of a biological research laboratory undertaken from 1975 to 1977, written as if the personnel were an unfamiliar tribe whose belief systems were unknown to the anthropologist observer. In a 1986 reprint, the word “social” was removed from the subtitle.48 Latour’s The Pasteurization of France (French 1984; translated into English in 1988) took as its focus a historical scientific revolution, that is, Louis Pasteur’s transformation of medicine and hygiene into a science; methodologically, it focused on the texts of three scientific journals and it expanded the range of “actors,” “agents,” and “actants” to be broader than the usual humanist ideal, to include nonhuman, collective, and figurative entities.49Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (1987) offered a more theoretical overview of method and crystallized a “performative” notion of scientific fact, according to which the factuality of a fact was secured by its being accepted and used by later scientists. Latour’s work was given great prominence in the first and second issues of Configurations, the journal of the predominantly North American organization called the Society for Literature and Science.50 Although there have been dissenting voices in Configurations and elsewhere, these issues sent out a strong message about methodology.51

The opening chapter of Laboratory Life presents scientists as “compulsive and almost manic writers,” as “a strange tribe who spend the greatest part of their day coding, marking, altering, correcting, reading, and writing.”52 To the anthropologist persona of the opening chapter, the notion of “inscription” makes sense of what had at first been a confusing environment: “It seemed as if there might be an essential similarity between the inscription capabilities of apparatus, the manic passion for marking, coding, and filing, and the literary skills of writing, persuasion, and discussion”; the laboratory “began to take on the appearance of a system of literary inscription.”53 The phrase about literary inscription has often been quoted in the context of literature and science studies, and to quote it in such contexts is to subtly alter its meaning through a domaining effect. Though Latour is interested in texts—necessarily so in The Pasteurization of France—and in treating material elements as if they were texts (seeing a copy of an English dictionary, Laboratory Life draws an analogy with racks of chemical samples that “might be called material dictionaries”), the respects in which his texts are literary is open to question. Published scientific papers certainly have their own tacit rules of form and style, as do informal scientific communications, but they are not those of literature in the sense of fiction, poetry, or drama. One can acknowledge the insufficiency of purely formalist attempts to define the literary while still being able to recognize the formal differences between scientific and literary inscription. Surprisingly, though, critics quoting the phrase from Laboratory Life do not usually note the problem with the term “literary.”

Setting aside the problematic term, it is clear why Latour’s interest in inscription makes his work significant in the field of literature and science but, at around the time that Laboratory Life was published, practitioners were assembling their own toolkit of concepts. It is true that the role of metaphor in theory formation, as highlighted by Black, Hesse, and others, is primarily cognitive and does not imply inscription, but any evidence-based historical study necessarily depends on written evidence of figurative language. Darwin’s Plots, as an exemplar of practice, makes use not only of the multiple editions of The Origin of Species that appeared in Darwin’s lifetime, but also of his letters and notebooks. As Devin Griffiths notes, “Darwin is the central figure of Literature and Science because his writing was his science.”54 And to the extent that Latour’s interest in inscription also includes reading—in the opening vignettes of Laboratory Life, “Julius” comes in to the office “eating an apple and perusing a copy of Nature”—it is clear that, by the mid-1980s, the field was systematically focused on investigating what scientists read and in analyzing it.55 The practical work of tracking a scientist’s reading may seem philological in the pejorative sense, but it provides an essential foundation for the more imaginative parts of the analytical process. The innovation in Laboratory Life comes first in its recognition that inscription is present in contemporary science, and second, in its suggestion that the kinds of inscription generated by laboratory computers may be as worthy of the name as the writing in a scientist’s notebook or a paper in a scholarly journal.

The claim “that scientific facts are constructed and not discovered” is, according to T. Hugh Crawford, one of the most productive elements in Laboratory Life.56 Mark Morrisson accords with this view, though he focuses on Science in Action where Latour gives an account of the “black box” view of science: a fact or a machine has been black boxed when, “no matter how controversial their history, how complex their inner workings, how large the commercial or academic networks that hold them in place, only their input and output count.”57 Latour’s approach, by contrast, is to uncover the workings of the black box and to emphasize science “in the making” or “in action.” Nicolson and others working in the History of Ideas tradition could rightly be criticized for black boxing ideas from science, focusing only the outputs—completed ideas—and then considering literary representations and responses. But in 1962, Kuhn’s emphasis on paradigm shifts had reminded scholars that theories are actively constructed. In Darwin’s Plots, a great deal of Beer’s discussion concerns Darwin’s struggle to frame his theory in the right way and to balance different intellectual and ideological claims; she repeatedly characterizes his theory as shifting and unsettled. It is true that her focus is on the making of a scientific theory, while Crawford draws attention to the construction of facts. But Beer also analyzes the adjectives with which Darwin modified “fact”—facts were often “wonderful” or “extraordinary”—and the wider cultural discourse on fact. The latter yields conclusions that suggest that Science in Action and Darwin’s Plots share common roots in the pre-Latourian science studies of the 1970s: as Beer notes, “In their use of the word fact they [the Victorians] often combine the idea of performance with that of observation. Fact is deed as much as object, the thing done as much as the thing categorised.” Moreover, facts are performed through acts of rhetorical assertion: “The word ‘fact’ authenticates.”58 Although Latour, with concepts such as black boxing, has devised more sophisticated tools for discussing method in literature and science, if the field is seen as primarily a historicist critical practice, then it is clear that “inscription” and “science in the making” were established within that practice before Latour’s conceptualizations of them were widely known.

Although Latour’s work is often identified with science studies, his thinking has diverged from SSK. In this regard, in the field of literature and science, his work has seemed to offer an escape route from several related dead ends or polarized binaries. Although in the 1980s the field focused on science in the making in the sense of theory formation, it had little to say about the day-to-day experience of science as an activity. Its emphasis was on science as knowledge, not science as practice. Moreover, it had little to say about the materiality of science, whether understood to be the built and socially organized spaces in which scientific activity takes place or the materiality of scientific experiments, instruments, and samples. It is widely recognized that around 1989, there was a material turn in the history of science: chapters by Simon Shaffer and J. A. Bennett in the collection The Uses of Experiment (1989) have been seen as prominent early examples.59 The material turn may also be understood as a pragmatic turn or turn to practice. Closely connected to the material turn is a spatial one that takes as its objects such things as the laboratory, the museum, the field (as in scientific “field work”), and the garden.60 The material and pragmatic turns in science studies may seem to displace metaphor as a central concern of the field of literature and science. One possible response is to conceive of the field branching away from science studies, retaining its concern with figurative conceptualization as a necessary point of connection between literature and science. However, it is also possible to see a continuing role for metaphor in a newly material account of science.61

In 1992, Andrew Pickering, noting the emerging interest in scientific practice, argued that SSK’s focus on science as knowledge had reached a conceptual impasse. SSK saw the “technical culture of science” as a “single conceptual network,” and insofar as it was interested in science as practice, it saw practice “as the creative extension of the conceptual net to fit new circumstances.” Moreover, it saw practice as guided by interest, in the sense of factional “interests.”62 In Pickering’s summary, SSK’s account of science is “thin, idealized, and reductive”; it lacks the “conceptual apparatus” to capture “the richness of doing science, the dense work of building instruments, planning, running, and interpreting experiments, elaborating theory, negotiating with laboratory managements, journals, grant-giving agencies, and so on.”63 It may achieve conceptual closure in its explanations, but it does so at the cost of terrible reductiveness. Joseph Rouse, developing Pickering’s argument, identifies a structural problem with sociological explanation: scientific knowledge, the thing to be explained, must be sharply differentiated from the social, the factor that explains it.64 This binary reproduces the science’s inaugurating binary division of the world into observer and observed, science and nature; these conceptual dichotomies “guarantee the very hegemony of the natural sciences” that SSK wishes to dispute.65 Latour—and Actor-Network Theory more generally—promise an escape from a deadlocked binary opposition in which scientific knowledge is either given by nature or “dictated by society.”66

Surveying this argument, James Bono notes that the position taken by Pickering and Rouse is by no means the only one possible: for example, Peter Dear has argued persuasively for a “sociocultural” history of science. Moreover, in a move analogous to the present argument, Bono notes that Latour was far from the first to contest the foundational binaries within science studies.67 However, if literature and science is conceived as a historicist critical practice, it can be seen that the most widely imitated practitioners have, when confronted by binaries of realism and social constructivism, found ways of negotiating between them, which keep in play the claims of both. The negotiation is to be found not in the conceptual apparatus of any particular body of theory, but in the critical writing itself at the level of the sentence, the paragraph, and above. It is found in an agile movement between particular phrases, situated in their complex social and discursive networks, and reflexive considerations of method. Pickering’s criticism of conceptual closure parallels the concerns of many literature and science practitioners. A significant criticism of Nicolson’s work is that, by settling literature on a scientific base, she excludes “other simultaneous significations” and “over-stabilize[s]” the reading, even when praising “innovation and disturbance.”68 One procedure for resisting such stabilization is to introduce points of reference beyond the binary of literature and science: a “third element” that creates instabilities in the binary. Jenkins gives the example of Laura Otis using imperial discourse in relation to 19th-century biology and literature; the present author, writing about spacetime in modernism and in post-Einsteinian popular science writing, turned to global telegraph systems and the discourse around simultaneity that accompanied them.69 The introduction of the third element does not in itself guarantee destabilization: it is equally possible for it to be recruited as the factor that monocausally “explains” both the science and the literature. The avoidance of such reductiveness requires careful conceptualization of relations between the elements, but also involves care in the writing. Even in full-length monographs, the spirit of essayism is an important one to the discipline in the sense of a form of writing that is tentative, exploratory, and provisional.

This article has considered only three concepts strongly associated with Latour: literary inscription, black boxing, and the problem of explanation. Many others may be examined in a similar way, with the aim of distinguishing what is truly original in his work and what has precedents in earlier theory and practice in the field. His notion of “technoscience” would be high on the list.70 So too would his extension of agency to nonhuman actants, a move that shines an interesting light on the field’s unresolved relation to conventional humanist notions of agency.

One unfortunate and unintended effect of George Rousseau’s 1978 “State of the Field” essay is that, in rejecting the works of the philologists and even of Nicolson, it inaugurated a dynamic of supersession in which each new generation of critics ritually rejects the methodologies and conceptual tools of the previous one. The present article has not been innocent of the practice in relation to Nicolson; it is easy to caricature her work and it deserves a more sympathetic revaluation. The tendency to identify a valid method with Latour’s work is a symptom of this dynamic. To restrict the conceptual toolbox of the field and to dismiss older practices as unsophisticated is to impoverish its possibilities. Practitioners in the field need to recognize the critical concepts that are implicit in apparently untheorized moves and that are embodied in the writing, though never explicitly named. Practitioners achieve what they have done by standing on the shoulders of giants, by surveying the full range of past critical practices rather than simply looking out for the next wave.

Discussion of the Literature

A student-oriented introduction to critical work in the field is presented by Willis and another is presented by Morrisson, with a chronological focus on modernism.71

Rousseau’s 1978 survey of the field inaugurated a subgenre of reflective survey: following him, in 1987 Peterfreund identified the importance of figurative language as crucial to the resurgence of the discipline while Bono, in 2010, highlighted the turn to the performative and the material, as well as the growing importance of Bruno Latour.72 In 1981, Rousseau performed a similar service for literature and medicine. Since then, work in that field has tended to focus on narrative in clinical case reports and case histories, and on trying to recover the perspective of patients from documents dominated by clinicians.73 In 2017 and 2018, under the general title “The State of the Unions,” special editions of the journals Configurations and Journal of Literature and Science surveyed the field from a range of viewpoints from both sides of the Atlantic.74 Though in the early 1980s works on literature and technology were less theoretically reflective than those on literature and science, the theoretical perspectives of Donna Haraway—particularly her “Manifesto for Cyborgs” and her collection of essays Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature—and of Friedrich Kittler have been highly influential; works by Armstrong and Goody have developed the field in a more theoretically reflexive direction.75

Beer’s 1989 survey is particularly strong on questions of influence and interchange, and Jenkins’s 2016 discussion of method gives significant space to the “one culture” and “two-way traffic” models.76 Levine’s personal reflections on the growth of the field give an account from the perspective of someone trained in mid-20th-century close reading and also reflect on the unavoidability, even in historicist work, of making scientific truth claims.77 Levine’s “Why Science Isn’t Literature” valuably reflects on the importance of differences.78

On metaphor, Ortony’s collection of essays is still valuable; Lakoff and Johnson’s work has been less influential in the field than may be expected; Whitworth and Bono note the difficulty with its argument that metaphors are grounded in the body.79 Griffiths focuses on analogy as distinct from metaphor, differentiating formal and harmonic analogies.80

Given that the science in literature and the literature in science are often visible only in fleeting glimpses, questions of validity and evidence recur: Lance Schachterle provided some valuable practical criteria in 1987, as did N. Katherine Hayles in 1991.81

The relations of history of science with science studies have been constantly changing: Daston gives a very clear account that is in part a response to Jasanoff.82 There have been dissenting voices in relation to Latour from several perspectives.83 For the debates between sociology of scientific knowledge and Latourian Actor-Network Theory, Pickering’s collection of essays is crucial, though best approached through essays by Rouse and Bono.84 The role of feminist studies of science has provided the field of literature and science with a significant social point of reference. Work by Keller and Harding was especially influential in the 1980s and 1990s.85

Further Reading

  • Beer, Gillian. Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983.
  • Beer, Gillian. Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.
  • Biagioli, Mario, ed. The Science Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1999.
  • Clarke, Bruce. Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001.
  • Hayles, N. Katherine, ed. Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
  • Henderson, Linda Dalrymple. The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art. Revised edition. Cambridge, MA: Leonardo Books, 2013.
  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
  • Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. 2nd ed. New postscript and index by the authors. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.
  • Leane, Elizabeth. Reading Popular Physics: Disciplinary Skirmishes and Textual Strategies. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
  • Levine, George, ed. One Culture: Essays in Science and Literature. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.
  • Levine, George. Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Middleton, Peter. Physics Envy: American Poetry and Science in the Cold War and After. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.
  • Ortony, Andrew, ed. Metaphor and Thought. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Peterfreund, Stuart, ed. Literature and Science: Theory & Practice. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1990.
  • Preston, Claire. The Poetics of Scientific Investigation in Seventeenth-Century England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Willis, Martin. Literature and Science: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism. London: Palgrave, 2015.


  • 1. For an overview of Victorian “scientific” literary criticism, see Peter Garratt, “Scientific Literary Criticism,” in The Routledge Research Companion to Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Science, ed. John Holmes and Sharon Ruston (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017), 115–127; the best-known early 20th-century example is I. A. Richards’s Principles of Literary Criticism (London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1924).

  • 2. Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson, eds., The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2005); Joseph Carroll, “An Evolutionary Paradigm for Literary Study,” Style 42, no. 2–3 (2008): 103–135; and Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2009).

  • 3. Eugene Goodheart, “Do We Need Literary Darwinism?” Style 42, no. 2–3 (2008): 181–185; Jonathan Kramnick, “Against Literary Darwinism,” Critical Inquiry 37, no. 2 (2011): 315–347; and Alan Richardson, “Literary Studies and Cognitive Science,” in Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science, ed. Steven Meyer (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 207–222, 208–209.

  • 4. Matthew Arnold, “Literature and Science,” in The Complete Prose Works, ed. Robert Henry Super (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1974 [1882]), vol. 10, 53–73; and Thomas Henry Huxley “Science and Culture,” Nature 22 (October 1880): 545–548.

  • 5. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1959).

  • 6. George S. Rousseau, “Literature and Science: The State of the Field,” Isis 69, no. 4 (1978): 583–591; and Stuart Peterfreund, “Literature and Science: The Present State of the Field,” Studies in Literature 19, no. 1 (1987): 25–36, 26.

  • 7. Rousseau, “Literature and Science,” 584–585.

  • 8. Rousseau, “Literature and Science,” 585, note 7; George Levine, “Why Science Isn’t Literature: The Importance of Differences,” Realism, Ethics and Secularism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 167; and Gillian Beer, “Science and Literature,” in Companion to the History of Modern Science, ed. Geoffrey N. Cantor et al. (London: Routledge, 1989), 790.

  • 9. David Bloor, “Two Paradigms for Scientific Knowledge?” Science Studies 1, no. 1 (1971): 101–115.

  • 10. Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983), 1.

  • 11. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 4th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 195.

  • 12. N. Katherine Hayles, The Cosmic Web: Scientific Field Models and Literary Strategies in the Twentieth Century (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984), 39.

  • 13. Kuhn, Structure, 190.

  • 14. Max Black, “More About Metaphor,” in Metaphor and Thought, ed. Andrew Ortony, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 27; also an essential point of reference is Max Black, “Metaphor,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, n.s. 55 (1954): 273–294.

  • 15. Devin Griffiths, The Age of Analogy: Science and Literature Between the Darwins (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), 17–20, 27–39.

  • 16. Norman Campbell quoted by Mary Hesse, Models and Analogies in Science (London: Sheed and Ward, 1963), 5.

  • 17. Hesse, Models and Analogies, 4.

  • 18. Susan Merrill Squier, Babies in Bottles: Twentieth-Century Visions of Reproductive Technology (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994), 26.

  • 19. Thomas S. Kuhn, “Metaphor in Science” in Metaphor and Thought, ed. Andrew Ortony, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 533–542 (539).

  • 20. Kuhn, Structure, xliv.

  • 21. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 268; similarly, Sally Shuttleworth, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Science (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 208–209; and George Levine, Darwin and the Novelists: Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 276.

  • 22. Donna Haraway, Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors that Shape Embryos (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2004), 25 (n. 23).

  • 23. George S. Rousseau, “Introduction,” Configurations 7, no. 2 (1999): 127–136; Frank Palmeri, “History of Narrative Genres after Foucault,” Configurations 7, no. 2 (1999): 267–277.

  • 24. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 6–7.

  • 25. Peterfreund, “Literature and Science: The Present State,” 28.

  • 26. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 32, 41.

  • 27. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 99, her emphasis.

  • 28. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 100, her emphasis.

  • 29. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 173.

  • 30. Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production, trans. Geoffrey Wall (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), 92; and Beer cites Macherey (alongside Derrida) in relation to the question of origins: Darwin’s Plots, 18.

  • 31. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 52.

  • 32. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 7; Rousseau, “Literature and Science,” 587; and Morse Peckham, “Darwinism and Darwinisticism,” Victorian Studies 3, no. 1 (1959): 19–40.

  • 33. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 97; elsewhere, Beer quotes from Derrida’s “Structure, Sign, and Play”: Darwin’s Plots, 62.

  • 34. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 38, 92, 94.

  • 35. Cleanth Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn (1947; rev. ed. London: Dennis Dobson, 1968), 1–7.

  • 36. Marilyn Strathern, quoted by Squier, Babies in Bottles, 26–27.

  • 37. Richard Rorty, “Texts and Lumps,” New Literary History 39, no. 1 (2008): 53–68, 3.

  • 38. R. G. A. Dolby, “Sociology of Knowledge in Natural Science,” Science Studies 1, no. 1 (1971): 3–21, 5.

  • 39. Joseph Rouse, “What Are Cultural Studies of Scientific Knowledge?” Configurations 1, no. 1 (1993): 1–22, 3–4.

  • 40. David Bloor, “Wittgenstein and Mannheim on the Sociology of Mathematics,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 4, no. 2 (1973): 173–191, 173–174.

  • 41. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 4; Levine, Darwin and the Novelists, 6.

  • 42. Rousseau, “Literature and Science,” 587.

  • 43. Alice Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures: Science, Literature, and Disciplinary Boundaries,” in Oxford Handbook of Victorian Literary Culture, ed. Juliet John (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 402–416, 407–410.

  • 44. Steven Meyer, “Introduction,” Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science, ed. Steven Meyer (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 5; and Devin Griffiths, “Darwin and Literature,” Cambridge Companion, 67.

  • 45. Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures,” 410–412.

  • 46. Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures,” 412.

  • 47. Mark S. Morrisson, Modernism, Science, and Technology (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 21–25; and Meyer, “Introduction,” 1–21.

  • 48. Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 281.

  • 49. Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France, trans. Alan Sheridan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 252, n. 11.

  • 50. Bruno Latour, “Pasteur on Lactic Acid Yeast: A Partial Semiotic Analysis,” Configurations 1, no. 1 (1993): 129–146; Bruno Latour and T. Hugh Crawford, “An Interview with Bruno Latour,” Configurations 1 no. 2 (1993): 247–268; the Society for Literature and Science was founded in 1985, but since 2004, it has been known as the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, or SLSA.

  • 51. See, e.g., Timothy Lenoir, “Was the Last Turn the Right Turn? The Semiotic Turn and A. J. Greimas,” Configurations 2, no. 1 (1994): 119–136.

  • 52. Latour and Woolgar, Laboratory Life, 48, 49.

  • 53. Latour and Woolgar, Laboratory Life, 51–52.

  • 54. Griffiths, “Darwin and Literature,” 64; his emphasis.

  • 55. Latour and Woolgar, Laboratory Life, 15; and Gillian Beer, “Darwin’s Reading and the Fictions of Development,” in The Darwinian Heritage, ed. D. Kohn (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 543–588.

  • 56. T. Hugh Crawford, “Science Studies and Literary Theory,” in Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science, ed. Steven Meyer (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 121.

  • 57. Bruno Latour, Science in Action (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1987), 3; discussed in Morrisson, Modernism, 23.

  • 58. Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 81, her emphases.

  • 59. Schaffer and Bennett are instanced by Liba Taub, “Introduction: Reengaging with Instruments,” Isis 102, no. 4 (2011): 689–696; for a fuller discussion of the “material turn,” see Thomas Söderqvist, [untitled review], The British Journal for the History of Science 43, no. 3 (2010): 506–508.

  • 60. Crosbie Smith, Jon Agar, and Gerald Schmidt, eds., Making Space for Science: Territorial Themes in the Shaping of Knowledge (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 1998); and David N. Livingstone, “Making Space for Science (Produktion Von Räumen Der Wissenschaft),” Erdkunde 54, no. 4 (2000): 285–296.

  • 61. James J. Bono, “Why Metaphor? Toward a Metaphorics of Scientific Practice,” in Science Studies: Probing the Dynamics of Scientific Knowledge, ed. Sabine Maasen and Matthias Winterhager (Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript, 2001), 215–234.

  • 62. Andrew Pickering, “From Science as Knowledge to Science as Practice,” in Science as Practice and Culture, ed. Andrew Pickering (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 1–26, 4.

  • 63. Pickering, “From Science as Knowledge,” 5.

  • 64. Rouse, “What Are Cultural Studies of Scientific Knowledge?” 9–10; see also Bruno Latour, “One More Turn After the Social Turn: Easing Science Studies into the Non-Modern World,” in The Social Dimensions of Science, ed. Ernan McMullin (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1992), 272–292.

  • 65. Pickering, “From Science as Knowledge,” 20.

  • 66. Pickering, “From Science as Knowledge,” 21.

  • 67. James J. Bono, “Science Studies as Cultural Studies,” in Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science, 156–175; and Peter Dear, “Cultural History of Science: An Overview with Reflections,” Science, Technology, and Human Values 20, no. 2 (1995): 150–170.

  • 68. Beer, “Science and Literature,” 789.

  • 69. Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures,” 404–405, citing Laura Otis, Membranes: Metaphors of Invasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science and Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000); and Michael H. Whitworth, Einstein’s Wake: Relativity, Metaphor, and Modernist Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 170–197.

  • 70. Latour, Science in Action, 174–175; Morrisson, Modernism, 23.

  • 71. Martin Willis, Literature and Science: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism (London: Palgrave, 2015); and Morrisson, Modernism.

  • 72. Rousseau, “Literature and Science”; Peterfreund, “Literature and Science”; and James J. Bono, “Making Knowledge: History, Literature, and the Poetics of Science,” Isis 101, no. 3 (2010): 555–559.

  • 73. George S. Rousseau, “Literature and Medicine: The State of the Field,” Isis 72, no. 3 (1981): 406–424; Roy Porter, “The Patient’s View: Doing Medical History from Below,” Theory and Society 14, no. 2 (1985): 175–198; Brian Hurwitz, “Form and Representation in Clinical Case Reports,” Literature and Medicine 25, no. 2 (2006): 216–240; George S. Rousseau, “Medicine,” in The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science, ed. Bruce Clarke and Manuela Rossini (New York: Routledge, 2011), 169–180; and Monika Class. “Introduction: Medical Case Histories as Genre: New Approaches,” Literature and Medicine 32, no. 1 (2014): vii–xvi.

  • 74. Melissa Littlefield and Martin Willis, eds., Journal of Literature and Science 10, no. 1 (2017), and Rajani Sudan and Will Tattersdill, eds., Configurations 26, no. 3 (2018).

  • 75. Cecelia Tichi, Shifting Gears: Technology, Literature, Culture in Modernist America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Lisa M. Steinman, Made in America: Science, Technology, and American Modernist Poets (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987); Donna Haraway, “Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s,” Socialist Review 15, no. 2 (1985): 65–107; Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991); Friedrich A. Kittler, Discourse Networks 1800/1900, trans. Michael Metteer, and Chris Cullens (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990); Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999); Tim Armstrong, Modernism, Technology, and the Body: A Cultural Study (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998); and Alex Goody, Technology, Literature and Culture (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011).

  • 76. Beer, “Science and Literature,” 783–798; and Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures,” 402–416.

  • 77. George Levine, “Science and Victorian Literature: A Personal Retrospective,” Journal of Victorian Culture 12, no. 1 (2007): 86–96.

  • 78. Levine, “Why Science Isn’t Literature,” 165–181.

  • 79. Andrew Ortony, ed., Metaphor and Thought, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993); George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Whitworth, Einstein’s Wake, 8–16; and Bono, “Why Metaphor?.”

  • 80. Griffiths, The Age of Analogy.

  • 81. Lance Schachterle, “Contemporary Literature and Science,” Modern Language Studies 17, no. 2 (1987): 78–86; and N. Katherine Hayles, “Introduction,” in Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science, ed. N. Katherine Hayles (University of Chicago Press, 1991), 19–20.

  • 82. Lorraine Daston, “Science Studies and the History of Science,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 4 (2009): 798–813; and Sheila Jasanoff, “Reconstructing the Past, Constructing the Present: Can Science Studies and the History of Science Live Happily Ever After?” Social Studies of Science 30, no. 4 (2000): 621–631.

  • 83. James Robert Brown, “Latour’s Prosaic Science,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21, no. 2 (1991): 245–261; Simon Schaffer, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Bruno Latour,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 22, no. 1 (1991): 174–192; Friedel Weinert, “Vicissitudes of Laboratory Life,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43, no. 3 (1992): 423–429; Timothy Lenoir, “Was the Last Turn the Right Turn? The Semiotic Turn and A. J. Greimas,” Configurations 2, no. 1 (1994): 119–136; and David Bloor, “Anti-Latour,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 30, no. 1 (1999): 81–112.

  • 84. Andrew Pickering, ed., Science as Practice and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Rouse, “What Are Cultural Studies of Scientific Knowledge?”; and Bono, “Science Studies as Cultural Studies.”.

  • 85. Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985); Sandra G. Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986); and Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (1988): 575–599.