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Representing and Narrativizing Science

By P. SPINOZZI

Abstract

The assumption that literature, and not only science, is a cognitive system, and that science, and not only literature, is a system of representation provides the conceptual framework for exploring how knowledge is represented in scientific writing and in literary texts which tackle scientific theories. Language is used by scientists to articulate working hypotheses, illustrate methods, describe stages of research, and show results. The discursive modes and rhetorical strategies used in conveying theories and discoveries to specialist and non-specialist audiences show that scientific writers pursue clarity, efficacy, and rigour but are also sensitive to the lure of literariness. Figures of speech in narratives of science challenge the classification of scientific language as denotative and of literary language as connotative. Tropes transport scientific concepts from a literal to a non-literal plane, adding layers of meaning and engendering polysemy.\ud Creative writers intrigued by science fictionalize it and, while giving a literary shape to scientific ideas, draw attention to the medium of communication. They appropriate scientific concepts, representing them for their own purposes in a particular form and language. In literary representations of science, multiple components coexist: the fictional and narrative one, made manifest through the plot and the characters, and the explanatory and argumentative one, conveyed through the exposition of scientific methods and theories. Literature thriving on science consciously employs language both creatively and instrumentally in order to mould scientific knowledge according to the requisites of literary writing. Scientists rely on language to formulate, fix, and convey assumptions, hypotheses, and methods. Writing of science searches for aesthetically accomplished ways of expressing scientific concepts. Because scientific notions are mediated by language, they are constantly exposed to new forms of verbalization which disclose new meanings. Translating in accessible or creative ways what has been defined in scientific terms proper entails actively taking part in the production of and response to scientific knowledge. Multiple forces work together dynamically: the exposition of scientific methods and theories through explanation and argumentation; narrativization and fictionalization through different modes of emplotment and reference to characters; self-reflexivity and meta-discourse, evidenced in a conscious use of language as a medium that transforms scientific knowledge in representation

Topics: Narrativity, Representation, Popularization of Science, Fictionalization, English Literature
Publisher: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:iris.unife.it:11392/1583065
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