Literature and Science

Social Impact and Interaction

by John H. Cartwright and Brian Baker
Mark A. Largent, Series Editor


From Chaucer's scientific writings to the enduring appeal of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Anglo-American literature has enjoyed a close if turbulent relationship with science. This symbiosis is explored in a work that spans six centuries and deals with key scientific discoveries and seminal works of literature in a lively and informative style.

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Cover image for Literature and Science

June 2005


Pages 471
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics The Arts/General
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A survey of the interaction between science and Anglo-American literature from the late medieval period to the 20th century, examining how authors, thinkers, and philosophers have viewed science in literary texts, and used science as a window to the future.

Spanning six centuries, this survey of the interplay between science and literature in the West begins with Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe and includes commentary on key trends in contemporary literature.

Beginning with the birth of science fiction, the authors examine the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as well as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein within the context of a wider analysis of the impact of major historical developments like the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism. The book balances readings of literature with explanations of the impact of key scientific ideas. Focusing primarily on British and American literature, the book also takes an informed but accessible approach to the history of science, with seminal scientific works discussed in a critical rather than overly theoretical manner.


  • Gives clear explanations of scientific ideas ranging from medieval cosmology to modern concepts in astronomy
  • Organizes the material in chronological order with a chronology and bibliographic essay accompanying each chapter


  • Examines trends in the portrayal of science in literature
  • Explores issues such as science's impact on gender issues, public mistrust of science, and the influence of religious beliefs
  • Examines the scientific underpinning of major works of Western literature
  • Includes three chapters on 20th-century literature, including that of World War II as well as contemporary literature
Author Info

John H. Cartwright is senior lecturer in science at the University of Chester, Chester, England. He is a scientist and historian and the author of several works on the impact of evolution on human behavior and psychology.

Brian Baker, PhD, is senior lecturer in literature at the University of Chester, Chester, England. He has published on science fiction, contemporary British and American fiction, and Hollywood film.



"Rather than producing an encyclopedia the size of a major planet, Cartwright and Baker focus on authors, periods and topics that reveal something significant about the relationship between literature and science."Reference & Research Book News

"A thoughful, useful textbook that provides a robust historical survey aimed at the undergraduate."Isis

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