LIT265 : Literary Mad Scientists: From Frankenstein to Einstein

Convener(s): Dr Katherine Ebury


General Information

What is the relationship between literature and science? How do individual authors use their work to celebrate or critique scientific worldviews? The contemporary poet Ruth Padel writes that: 'Poetry and science have more in common than revealing secrets. Both depend on metaphor, which is as crucial to scientific discovery as it is to lyric. A new metaphor is a new mapping of the world.' This module explores interchanges between literature and science, both in terms of metaphor and content, with the figure of the scientist as creative genius or ‘mad scientist' providing a unifying theme. You will also discuss similarities scientific creativity and literary creativity; after all, some authors, such as William Carlos Williams or Lewis Carroll, had a primarily scientific education. In the course of the module you will build up a picture of literary engagement with science from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first century through analysis of canonical literature, science fiction and popular science writing. You will study multiple genres (novels, poetry, plays) and sciences (robotics, astronomy, biology) to cater for a wide range of interests. Writers studied will include Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov and Michael Frayn and many others.


This module is delivered via two sessions each week: the first takes the form of an informal, interactive lecture led by the tutor; the second takes the form of a seminar. Existing scientific knowledge is not required for this module, as we will approach the literary and scientific texts primarily through close reading: you only need to be interested by the topics and ideas. I also hope to offer a field trip as part of this module, depending on funding and numbers.


1500 word research report (40%) 2500 word essay (60%)

Contact Details

Dr Katherine Ebury

Information last changed: Monday 10th of August 2015 :: 12:40:19 PM (BST)

Please note: This module may or may not run in any individual session. Please check with the course convener.


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK