Slavic R5A, Section 2: Literature for Scientists

TuTh 8-9:30, 2011 VLSB. Instructor: Instructor TBA.

Units: 4

This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

What can a scientist gain from reading literature? Using this as our guiding question, we will investigate several examples of Russian and English literature from the nineteenth century in which the “literary” and the “scientific” collide. We will encounter botched experiments, scientists as characters, dangerous scientific ideas, evolution, scientific expedition and travel, patients, doctors, dissection of frogs, early psychology and neuroscience, social experimentation, and more. We will take a look more broadly at how scientific ideas are absorbed into literature, sometimes with unexpected results. What role does literature play in representing the complexities of science in the real world? What is the risk of applying scientific ideas to society and culture? We will attempt to trace the lineage of debates around the role of science in society and culture, starting in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and concluding in the present.

This course is primarily intended to develop college writing and critical reading skills. Over the course of the semester, students will write expository essays and practice developing strong arguments through close reading.


Texts for purchase (Important: You must have these paper Norton editions; others are unacceptable).

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ISBN: 0393927938 (Norton Critical Edition)

Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Children, ISBN: 0393927970 (Norton Critical Edition)

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground, ISBN: 0393976122 (Norton Critical Edition)

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, ISBN: 0393926362 (Norton Critical Edition)

 (Supplementary readings will be posted on bCourses)

Prerequisite:  Successful completion of the UC Entry Level Writing Requirement.  Students may not enroll in nor attend R1A/R5A courses without completing this prerequisite.