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Unit information: Literature and Science: Newton to Darwin in 2021/22

Unit name Literature and Science: Newton to Darwin
Unit code ENGL20054
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Rosalind Powell
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed an abundance of exciting scientific discoveries from the rise of experimental methods early in the period to the later understanding of electricity and evolution. Science was consumed, critiqued, and celebrated by the ordinary reader in literary forms. Literary authors such as Samuel Johnson, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and Mary Shelley responded to and were influenced by these developments and scientists themselves – including Robert Boyle, Humphry Davy, and Charles Darwin – turned to literary modes of expression to explain new ideas.

This unit will consider modes of experimentation and creativity, literary and scientific celebrity, the role of the scientific gaze, the gendering of scientific spaces, the treatment of science in a Christian context from creation to Darwinian evolution, and the analysis of scientific publications as texts that influenced and were influenced by literature.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

(1) demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of literary texts that engage with scientific and philosophical ideas;

(2) show an understanding of major critical approaches to the primary texts;

(3) engage directly with scientific and philosophical texts and theories in order to reflect on the changing status of literature and ideas;

(4) demonstrate a critical understanding of the key debates about the relationship between literature and science;

(5) demonstrate skills in academic writing, argumentation, and evaluation of evidence from primary and critical literature, appropriate to level I/5.

Teaching Information

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Information

  • 1 x 3000 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Students will be given the opportunity to submit a draft or outline of their final, summative essay of up to 1,500 words and to receive feedback on this.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ENGL20054).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.