English 164 - Spring, 2015

Writing Science

Class Information

Instructor: Milburn, Colin
CRN: 52844
Time: TR 9:00-10:20
Location: 118 Olson


    “Writing Science” explores the role of texts and writing practices in the production of scientific knowledge. Using interdisciplinary methods from both science studies and literary studies, we will learn how language functions in the profession of science and how scientific authors work with narratives, metaphors, and genres. The course will focus on the literary structures of scientific arguments from the Scientific Revolution to the present day.

    In the first half of the course, topics will include: scientific authorship; the forms and styles of scientific writing; pop-science versus elite science; notes, scribbles, and paper tools in the experimental laboratory; mass media and cultural narratives of science. In the second half of the course, we will turn to a specific case study to explore the process of writing science in greater depth. This year, our case study will be nanotechnology. We will address the unique literary features of key documents from the history of nanotechnology. We will also examine nanotechnology’s peculiar relationship with science fiction.


    2 essays (25% each); class participation and in-class exercises (15%); 2 midterm quizzes (10% each); final exam (15%)


    Prey, Michael Crichton
    The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein, Robert A. Heinlein
    Engines of Creation, Eric Drexler
    The Double Helix, James Watson
    Science in Action, Bruno Latour
    Online Course Reader