The literature and the science of 'two cultures' historiography

This paper discusses the historiography of the ‘two cultures’ controversy. C. P. Snow’s lament about the ‘two cultures’, literary and scientific, has inspired a wide range of comment—much of which begins by citing Snow and his thesis, before going on to discuss very different things. This paper focuses upon one strand of this commentary, the historical analysis of the controversy itself. A ‘historical’ analysis is defined here as one that resists the impulse to enter the argument on behalf of Snow or Leavis, to conceive of their argument in the terms that Snow defined, or to invoke their argument as a precursor to some contemporary issue. Instead, a historical interpretation registers distance between that day and this, takes the controversy itself as its object of study, and explores the tensions and associations that came to be packed into those now familiar terms. As the fiftieth anniversary of Snow’s Rede Lecture nears, this approach—rather than the repetition of clichés about the bridging of cultures—offers both analytical perspective on the controversy and interpretive possibilities for its examination.Keywords: Two cultures; Literature; Cultural politics; C. P. Snow; F. R. Leavis; 1960s
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2007.11.012
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