Spring 2013 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Gossin, Pamela
Discipline and Number
LIT 3334 Section 001
W Time 4:00 PM - 6:45 PM
Course Title
Literature of Science

Description of Course:

Women of Science in Literature and Film

In this course we will explore a fascinating selection of films and literature, including biographies and autobiographies, written by and about women who have dedicated their lives to the study of the natural world and medicine. What is unique about the experiences of women scientists and physicians – in their professions and personal lives? What challenges and obstacles do women in science and medicine face? How do they see themselves and their work as contributing to human knowledge and culture? How do others see them? To what extent does our society apply traditional stereotypes about scientists to them? Gender stereotypes? What can their life stories teach us about the “nature” of their intelligence, creativity, imagination, social choices, politics and ethics?

As a unique hybrid form between literature and history, how are “life stories” crafted? Is the genre more closely related to historiography or fiction? What can we learn about the “life story of science” from stories about individual lives? Is scientific knowledge related to and embedded in other forms of cultural knowledge? Is science “gendered”? Is nature? Can these narratives help us to better understand scientific concepts and medical perspectives? Is there a “moral to the story” of women in science?

The course will be organized according to various topics and themes: “winners and losers” in the “race” for DNA; “missing” history; the nature of individual genius; family life and love; religious and cross-cultural experiences in science, women and nature. The daily class format will be primarily discussion with a few descriptive or informative mini-lectures, and several documentary videos and biographical films, including: “The Race for DNA,” Agora, and selections from the Discovering Women series.

* This course counts toward the minor in Medical and Scientific Humanities (MaSH) *

Required Texts:

REQUIRED BOOKS (Other materials will be available through Electronic Reserve):

Watson, James. The Double Helix (aka, why we need this course!)
Sayre, Anne. Rosalind Franklin and DNA
DesJardins, Julie, The Madame Curie Complex
Keller, A Feeling for the Organism
Rhodes, Richard, Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World
Carson, Rachel, Silent Spring
Goodall, Jane, Reason for Hope
Ahmed, Qanta, In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi


Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

- 2 unit exams: Objective & Essay: (one essay in-class; the other a 3pp paper) = 1/3rd of grade, each

- Attendance and Participation (includes quizzes, in-class writing, and discussion) = 1/3rd of grade

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