Browsing by Author "Aarnio, Juuso"

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  • Aarnio, Juuso (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    During the last thirty years literary critics have become increasingly aware of the complexities surrounding the relationship between the so-called two cultures of science and literature. Today their study forms an independent field of research, in which their relationship is above all seen in terms of dynamic interaction that reflects the language, values and ideologies of our culture. Instead of regarding them as antagonistic endeavours, many now argue that the two are essentially cultural discourses that often encounter similar problems of representing reality, even though their methods differ from each other. Of the various aspects of the relationship between science and literature, my doctoral dissertation focuses on the language of popular science writing (including popularizers such as Paul Davies, James Gleick and Richard Dawkins) and the representation of scientific ideas in literature (including authors and playwrights such as Jeanette Winterson, Tom Stoppard and Richard Powers) by using methods of stylistic and thematic textual analysis on the substantial material of more than thirty texts. As regards the former, my aim is to show that our understanding of scientific ideas is to a considerable extent built on the employment of linguistic structures that allow genres of science writing such as popular science to express arguments in a persuasive manner. In this task the figurative language of classical rhetoric plays a significant role, as it helps create a close link between content and form, the latter not only stylistically supporting the former but also frequently epitomizing the philosophy behind what is said and establishing various kinds of argumentative logic. Since many previous studies have tended to focus only on the use of metaphor in scientific arguments, my thesis seeks to widen the scope by analysing the use of other figures of speech as well. I also suggest that figurative language constitutes a bridge to literature employing scientific ideas. While popular science employs figurative language to enhance its rhetorical and literary qualities, such literature uses ideas drawn from the natural sciences by its own techniques of representation, so that the rhetoric of popularized accounts is evident in the portrayals. On the other hand, it is possible to argue that the narratives of popular science writing reflect the literary portrayals of science, thus testifying to the dynamic interaction of the two cultures. Moreover, the comparative analysis of contemporary popular science writing and literature shows how the two participate in the discussion about the meaning of certain basic concepts in our culture, such as identity, knowledge and time. In this way, it is possible to understand that they are elementary constituents in the process of signification through which scientific ideas as well as fundamental questions concerning human life are given their culturally determined meaning and relevance.