In a Rede Lecture of 1959, the novelist and scientist C.P. Snow spoke of what he saw as the increasing divide between the humanities and the sciences in the academies and in British culture generally. According to Snow, the ‘two cultures’ had been pursuing separate paths over the past half-century or more to the extent that they no longer entered into fruitful dialogue. In the years following this assessment, there has been the attempt, at least in some quarters, to link advances and research into the two fields and the novel has been a cultural site where a particularly fruitful dialogue between the sciences and the arts has developed. One genre that foregrounds the links between the sciences and literature is, of course, science fiction, which has a long tradition in Britain with writers such as Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and many others. This genre, however, has too often been looked down upon in twentieth-century criticism, rather than being given the serious critical attention it deserves. Arguably, this has changed in the last 30 years or so with a number of key debates in literary and cultural studies that have helped to re-evaluate the place of science fiction (and fiction that addresses issues of science) in literary studies more broadly. In this chapter I will look at a range of important critical, political and philosophical texts that have worked to close the gap identified by Snow and will go on to discuss two novels in detail that have garnered much critical attention in this area: Ian McEwan’s Saturday and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
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Dr. Nick Bentley
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