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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

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PREFACE Literature is a field of confrontation and counterposition between the different branches of knowledge and experience where interdisciplinary ideas and discourses from the various fields of philosophy, science, psychoanalysis and critical theory meet and blur the boundaries between the narrative genres. Thus literature participates in a wider cultural discourse which aims at exploring the nature of critique and the relationship between scientific accuracy and humanistic knowledge, between truth and meaning, knowledge and understanding and leads to the overlapping of humanistic and scientific cultures. "The issue of science cannot remain a peripheral interest in literary criticism, because it expands the idea of literature, introducing a polycentric dialect of cultural forms and codes."I 1 D. Carpi, "Literature and science: the state of the Art in Contemporary Criticism", in D. Carpi (ed.), "Science and Literature in Focus" in Anglistik, 15. Jahresgang, Heft 1, Heidelberg, Winter, 2004, p. 51. 5

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