Science and Literature
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleNWI-FFIL205A
Credits (ECTS)3
CategoryMA (Master)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Science; Institute for Science, Innovation and Society;
prof. dr. H.A.E. Zwart
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. H.A.E. Zwart
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. H.A.E. Zwart
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2017
KW3  (05/02/2018 to 15/04/2018)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
  • Learning to reflect on the philosophical, ethical and societal dimensions of science
  • Learning to connect scientific developments with broader social and cultural trends
  • Learning to use novels (genres of the imagination) as windows into the philosophical, ethical and societal dimensions of science
  • Learning to apply core humanities concepts to analyse concrete scientific research practices
The course is devoted to analyzing 'science novels', i.e. literary documents devoted to scientific research practices. These documents are interesting for at least two reasons. To begin with, they may help us to understand actual research practices (science novels as windows into laboratory life). Also, they may help us to understand societal responses to scientific developments.
In other words, literary documents may help us to define what is so special about scientific knowledge (in comparison with other types of knowledge), but they may also help us to address the societal dimensions of science (the interactions between scientific research activities and their social or cultural environment). Science novels are used as literary laboratories for conducting exploratory experiments (scenario studies) as windows into the future.

Unlike science fiction novels, science novels deal with recent developments in scientific research (notably fields such as genomics, ICT, nanoscience, neuroscience and environmental science). They explore (in an anticipatory manner) the societal impact of science as well as their impact on our worldview, the way we see ourselves and our role in nature. Science studies also explore the way in which new technologies and societal developments reshape research fields.
• A selection of papers on science novels
• Lecture notes (ppt)
• A science novel

Teaching formats
• 2 hours guided individual project work
• 8 hours lecture
• 20 hours student presentation
• 14 hours problem session
• 40 hours individual study period

• Science novels as a window into the philosophical and societal dimensions of science
• Science novels as experiments analysing the soft impacts of science and technology (their wider implications for our view of the world, our vision of nature as well as for the way we see ourselves)
• Archetypes of science - basic images associated with specific research field triggering both fascination and concern

Test information
Presentatie (20%) + participatie (10%) + schrijfopdracht (70%)

Bachelor degree in Science; bachelor course introduction in philosophy / ethics

Required materials
A selection of papers on science novels
A science novel

Instructional modes
Course occurrence





Test weight1
OpportunitiesBlock KW3, Block KW4