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Summer Session I Course at Duke: LIT 148S-01: More than CSI: Bodies, Cultures, and Fictions

March 7, 2012

Looking to fulfill certain pre-requisiteswhile learning something different, fun yet experimental? Want to see how theory translate to real-life problem-solving and problem-solving informs the way we think and see the world? Thinking about a career in either Law or Medicine, and wanting to take a course to help you think critically about how they relate to your interests? What if you are a science major who wants to take a humanities course that will let you do something more creative while tapping into the well of knowledge you’ve accumulated through the other classes and projects? Are you interested in thinking and understanding how fiction can contribute to fresh insights when faced with hardcore facts? If you have been, or are beginning to, think about these questions, and more, you may want to consider this class.

M,Tu,Thu 3:30-5:35pm
Soc Sci 107
Instructor: Clarissa Ai Ling Lee
Email: clarissa dot lee at duke dot edu


The public’s interest in science has much to do with the mass media’s portrayal of the latter. Certain sciences became popular because of highly-rated television programs, such as X-files, CSI, Criminal Minds, Numb3rs, and other detection by science series, have rocked the imagination of the current generation. The class will focus on the study of the impact and influence of scientific inquiry and specialization on society and the public’s reaction and perception to scientific ideas and knowledge. Developments in the scientific field of the Western sphere have been spurred as much by knowledge construction and discoveries that take place in an amateur’s workshop as in the most sophisticated of research facilities. At the same time, the knowledge produced is circulated and represented through the relationship of the ‘non-scientific’ community to the published results and ideas. One of the ways of understanding the public’s reception to science is by studying the history of print and manuscripts in relation to science. By examining scientific publishing and journalism between the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, as well as sampling some of the articles, notes, and correspondences produced by the scientist, we can better understand how the scientists situate themselves within the dichotomous position of scientific knowledge production and public communication of ‘novel’ ideas/discoveries.

During class, we will be watching selected episodes from CSI as a springboard to discussions on the manner in which the science is presented and how the science is connected to the narrative of ethics and law . At the same time, we will be reading narratives (in the form of fiction and popular writings) produced by the scientists (as well as former scientists); as well as excerpts of various literary works centered around creative re-interpretations of a scientific theory, or which take creative license with ‘established’ theories. We will examine the history of professional reception towards non-mainstream theories and how such emergent or more marginalized theories are received and portrayed in fiction, art, films, and unusual museums such as the Museum of Jurassic Technology whose exhibits are as much as models of knowledge as they are models of experimental fiction.

Finally, we will look at key controversial issues in the sciences and how they play out within the arena of public/private science, especially in relation to controversial debates from the Darwinian theories to supercolliders to homeopathic medicine/healing.


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