ENGL 440B (H01) - Honors/Seeing is Believing: How the Copernican Revolution Changed the Way We See Ourselves

Honors/Seeing is Believing

Durham   Liberal Arts :: English
Credits: 4.0
Term: Spring 2020 - Full Term (01/21/2020 - 05/04/2020)
Grade Mode: Letter Grading
Class Size:   20  
CRN: 56731
This course explores the various ways that scientists, philosophers, poets, novelists, and literary theorists have tried to reconcile what we see (or think we see) with what we know (or think we know), from the ancient past to the 21st century. Our special focus will be on how the Copernican Revolution prompted a wholesale reevaluation of perception and knowledge. We will explore how writers, artists musicians, and philosophers embraced or lamented the enormous cultural and psychological changes that the Copernican evolution helped to introduce. We also will investigate how these changes continue to shape our worldview in the 21st-century.
Only listed campus in section: Durham, Manchester
Only the following students: Honors Program
Attributes: Humanities(Disc), Honors course
Instructors: STAFF

Times & Locations

Start Date End Date Days Time Location
1/21/2020 5/4/2020 MWF 10:10am - 11:00am HS 126
Additional Course Details: 

This course explores the various ways that scientists, philosophers, poets, musicians, and literary theorists have tried to reconcile what we see (or think we see) with what we know (or what we think we know) from antiquity to the 21st-century.  We shall approach the Copernican Revolution as a watershed moment not only for science but for culture as well.  We also will explore the impact of subsequent revolutions in science (Darwinism, Einstein’s theory of relativity, Chaos Theory, and Quantum Mechanics) on the arts and humanities.  What are the benefits of taking an interdisciplinary approach to science, culture, and the arts? What are the limitations?

This course is part of a four-course Honors symposium titled “The Copernican Lens: Dawn and Limits of Certainty in Physical Science and the Humanities.”  Taking its point of departure from the revolution in cosmology introduced by Nicolaus Copernicus, the symposium explores the implications of the Newtonian system of physics and its subsequent displacement by the probabilistic and apparently more subjective systems of relativity and quantum theory.  The implications of this transformation are traced in the realms of literary and visual cultures, philosophical ideas about humans’ place in the world, and historical understandings of the development of science itself.

The course qualifies for “Humanities” credit in the Discovery Program because it focuses primarily on humanistic responses (in literature, visual culture, music, philosophy, and literary criticism) to changing paradigms of scientific inquiry, with a special focus on the Copernican Revolution.  By closely examining literary texts and cultural critique, students will gain an understanding of the methods of literary analysis and critical thinking. 

This course is open to all students, FR-SR.  You do not have to have an Honors affiliation to enroll

This course satisfies HUMA in Discovery. 

Required Books:

Students will be expected to purchase the following titles in paperback editions:

  • Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (Harvard, 1976).
  • Rob Iliffe, Newton: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2007).
  • Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 2012).
  • Dante, The Inferno
  • Galileo Galilei, The Starry Messenger
  • John Milton, Paradise Lost