MLA Options for Teaching Series: Science Writing
As fans of the genre can attest, popular science writing belies the notion of “science” and “literature” as separate domains. Bestselling science writers borrow freely from the techniques of fiction writers to craft compelling narratives, memorable examples, and evocative re-presentations of technical information. Of course, scholars have long recognized the literariness of science writing: as pioneering work by Gillian Beer, George Levine, Devin Griffiths, Donna Haraway, and others attests, it is difficult to overestimate the historical traffic between science and literature. Since the early modern era (if not earlier), writers and scientists have routinely traded metaphors, images, and conceptual frameworks.
Recently, popular science writing has played an important role in ongoing efforts to recover and celebrate the legacy of figures erased from dominant histories of science, including women, Black people, and queer people. At the same time, the genre raises persistent ethical dilemmas. Besides the basic matter of whether science ought to be turned into entertainment, there is the matter of how literary devices interact with facts: for example, how might the imperative to use plot and other literary devices restrict what kinds of science becomes “popular” in the first place? Such questions unfold amidst widespread public distrust of science and scientists. Indeed, Bruno Latour’s 2004 musings on critique and climate denialism seem freshly relevant in 2022: what exactly is the role of critique amidst rampant COVID-19 mis- and disinformation?
The time is ripe for science writing to assume a larger, more thoughtfully theorized place in humanities curricula. Teaching Science Writing aims to equip teacher-scholars with practical strategies for incorporating science writing into humanities courses. The collection will have sections devoted to science writing from previous eras and to twenty-first century science writing: as such, I welcome essays on “science writing”—as defined by potential contributors themselves—from the medieval era to the present. Potential essay topics might include, but are not limited to:
- Practical strategies for pairing science writing with literary or other texts
- Methods for teaching science writing as literature / applying literary frameworks to popular science writing
- Using writing by popular science writers such as Elizabeth Kolbert, Ed Yong, Mary Roach, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Michael Pollan in first-year experience, writing, or general education courses
- Using contemporary or historical science writing as part of community-engaged courses or service learning
- Teaching science writing alongside film, television, or other media
- Performing critique of science writing as it relates to ethical, diversity, or other concerns
- Using science writing to facilitate interdisciplinary, collaborative, or team teaching
- Using science writing to challenge or critique traditional disciplinary boundaries, canons, and/or epistemologies
- Using science writing to engage nontraditional or underrepresented student populations
Please submit 250-500-word abstracts and a short bio or CV to Lisa Ottum (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 15 June 2022.
Authors will be notified of initial acceptance by mid- to late July 2022; pending peer review of the book prospectus, finished essays of 3500-4500 words would likely be due in August 2023. Queries are welcome, including requests for feedback on ideas.
For more information on the MLA Options for Teaching Series, see: https://www.mla.org/Publications/MLA-Book-Publications/What-We-Publish