Romancing the CERN: Constructive Interferences between Physics and Literature

15.01.2020 11:15 – 12:15

Physics and literature make odd bedfellows. More than 60 years after the famous C.P. Snow’s anathema sanctioning the incommunicability between the sciences and the humanities, the debate on the two cultures is still very much alive. Studies in the field of Literature and Science flourished in the past 20 years. The humanities, in general, have become increasingly aware of the important contribution of scientific ideas into shaping modern cultures and artistic productions. Yet, there still seems to be a fundamental asymmetry between literature’s understanding of physics and physics’ reception of literature.

When confronted with the idea of what literature can do for science, the answer has been as much unanimous as reductive: “storytelling”. Is it really the case that all literature has to offer is a series of narrative tricks? Drawing from examples of novels written by physicist and literary authors alike, I will explore some of the mechanisms that emerge at the crossroads of the two disciplines. What happens when the experimental apparatus of physics becomes the centerpiece of a fictional account? How does the material culture of detectors and particle accelerators influence the construction of a novel? And conversely, what tools does fiction offer to scientists in order to explore their ideas and their social environment? The goal of this presentation is not to discount the important lesson of “storytelling”, but rather to offer additional reasons why scientists, and physicists in particular, might want to pay more attention to literature.


Bâtiment: Ecole de Physique

Quai Ernest-Ansermet 24
1211 Genève 4
Grand Auditoire A

Organisé par

Faculté des sciences
Section de physique
Département de physique nucléaire et corpusculaire


Paola Villa, Dr, Wisconsin-Madison University

entrée libre


Catégorie: Séminaire

Mots clés: Physics and Literature

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