Bysshe Inigo Coffey
University of Exeter
The Two Cultures? Not so much . . . Today, literature students of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (in particular) learn happily about analogical thinking, electricity, Humphry Davy’s laughter, the twitching legs of frogs, and vitalism. The scientific turn is triumphant—a development which is, in certain respects, welcome. There are many reasons for its success: generous funding, the instant knee-jerk seriousness with which anything featuring the word ‘science’ is met, and science is, for some, in an age of cynicism, a subtle way of justifying the importance of studying literature. There is a hope that Percy Bysshe Shelley’s philistine ‘reasoners and mechanists’, derided in A Defence of Poetry, might begin to appreciate literature if it is understood as the handmaiden of science. In the worst work of this kind, poems become supplements; they are not to be worked with, but worked on.