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University Bulletin

Undergraduate Degree Programs

Chemistry (CHEM)

CHEM 233 (GH;GN) (ENGL 233) Chemistry and Literature (3) Exploration of key concepts of chemistry, the reciprocal influence of chemistry and literature throughout history, and the relationship of science to society, culture, and values.

CHEM (ENGL) 233 Chemistry and Literature (3)
(GN or GH)

CHEM/ENGL 233 is a pedagogically innovative course that will be team taught by an instructor from the English department and one from the Chemistry department. Both instructors will be present in the classroom throughout the semester, providing joint presentations and leading discussions. Students may earn either GH or GN credit for the course, but not both. This course teaches both basic concepts of chemistry and their cultural elaboration in literature. It seeks to provide students with a nuanced understanding of how literature and science inform each other and negotiate cultural, religious, and political tensions. The course seeks to explore ways in which our modern world is defined by and dependent on a variety of sciences and technologies. The impact of scientific and technological discoveries continues to dominate discussions of who we are, where we come from, where we are going, and our place in the universe. Understanding how we, as a society, have acquired knowledge is especially important when the ideas, perspectives, and discoveries are perceived to be in conflict with our religious, cultural, or political beliefs. Understanding the origin and development of these ideas, perspectives, and discoveries is an essential component of science and scientific achievement, but too often our methods of teaching science focus almost exclusively on teaching facts and theories at the expense of the historical discovery and development of those facts and theories. This course teaches both the scientific facts and theories and the contexts of their production in order to sharpen students’ abilities at critical evaluation of facts. The literary and scientific focus will vary from class to class, but may include writings by literary authors such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Bram Stoker, H. G. Wells, Garrett Serviss, William Butler Yeats, Arthur Machen, D. H. Lawrence, A. E. Waite, Aleister Crowley, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Camille Flammarion, and scientific texts by scientists such as William Crookes, William Ramsay, Frederick Soddy, Ernest Rutherford, Wilhelm Comad Roentgen, Henri Bequerel, J. J. Thomson, Niels Bohr, and Marie Curie. Like many literature courses, ENGL/CHEM 233 interprets history, assesses individual and social behavior, engages philosophical ideas, and expresses ethical and aesthetic values. It is especially useful at exploring cultural and social tensions involving scientific knowledge. For students in science programs, the course will explore the technical and conceptual dimensions of scientific knowledge in historical and cultural context. Political, cultural and personal motivations are integral components of the scientific method and deeply influenced the discovery of many of the fundamental chemical and physical concepts students are expected to master in their science curricula.

Students should expect to take two exams consisting of a midterm and a final, to write at least two papers for the course demonstrating their abilities at literary analysis and grappling with the themes of the course, and to make a group presentation to the class. Classroom discussion and general class participation will also be a factor in evaluation.

The course can be used as an elective credit toward the English Major and Minor, and can help students in English, Chemistry, or any other major fulfill General Education degree requirements.


General Education: GH;GN
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Summer 2007

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.