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The Relationship between Literature and Science in John Banville’s Scientific Tetralogy

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Sidia Fiorato

Starting from the debate between the two cultures, the book analyzes the relationship between literature and science in the last years of the twentieth century in the light of scientific theories which universally underline both their indeterminacy and their lack of universal values (Relativity Theory, Quantum Mechanics, the Uncertainty Principle, Chaos Theory). Scientific theories are echoed in literary texts but also a reverse influence from literature to science has taken place. In his scientific tetralogy John Banville analyzes the figures of those scientists who contributed to a paradigm shift in the world view from the early modernity to the present. His interest is not exclusively focused on epistemology but rather on the creative mind of the scientist. Science appears to follow the same epiphanic creative process as literature in its understanding of, and theorizing upon, an enigmatic sort of reality.

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Preface 5 1. LITERATURE AND SCIENCE: THE "TWO CULTURES"? 1.1) The Two cultures debate 7 1.2) Contemporary critical reflections an the debate 20 1.3) Writers and science: David Lodge's Thinks ... 24 1.4) The scientists' view of the question 28 1.4.1) Sokal and Bricmont's intellectual impostures 28 1.4.2) Barry Mazur's imagining numbers 31 1.5) A philosopher's view: Michel Serres 33 1.6) Literates and technology: Christine Brooke-Rose' s Verbivore 37 1.7) The field concept 41 1.8) The paradigm shift: an overview 44 1.9) Chaos Theory 49 2. JOHN BANVILLE 2.1) A critical introduction to the author 57 2.2) The narrative production of John Banville 67 2.2.1) The short stories: Long Lankin 67 2.2.2) The first novels: Nightspawn, Birchwood 70 2.2.3) The scientific tetralogy: Doctor Copernicus, Kepler, 79 The Newton Letter, Mefisto 2.2.4) The frames trilogy: The Book of Evidente, Athena, Ghosts 93 2.2.5) The latest novels: The Untouchable, Eclipse, Shroud 101 2.2.6) The theatrical production and Seachange 107 3. JOHN BANVILLE AND SCIENCE 3.1) The scientific tetralogy 115 3.2) Doctor Copernicus 121 3.2.1) Stylistic and thematic introduction 121 3.2.2) Order versus disorder 126 3 3.2.3) The new Copernican science: a radical act of creation 128 3.2.4) The problem of language 134 3.3) Kepler 139 3.3.1) Historical, philosophical and scientific background to Kepler 139 3.3.2) Kepler versus Copernicus 143 3.3.3) Order, disorder, chaos as absence of order, chaos as a complex 145 version of order 3.3.4) Science and dreams 147 3.3.5) The primacy of imagination 151 3.4) The Newton Letter. An Interlude 155...

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