Quantum Narratology and Other Curiosities: Intersections of Science and Storytelling


Details


INSTRUCTOR: Rhona Trauvitch

SECTION: Summer 2020: RVIA Fall 2020: RVO

SCHEDULE: Online Summer 2020

Course Description


The arts and the sciences have long intersected in fascinating ways. This course considers how certain concepts in the fields of quantum mechanics, genetics, and taxonomy manifest in narrative structure and dovetail with notions in narrative theory. When studying quantum mechanics, we will learn about what superposition and Schrödinger’s cat can tell us about the ontological status of the Muppets, and how Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle corresponds to metafiction. In investigating genetics, we will see how a gene’s code of instructions is analogous to concepts in Judaic mysticism, and leads to a novel reading of Asimov’s positronic robots, as well as the X-Men. Our review of taxonomy will inform our understanding of the functions of lists and cataloging in literature – for instance, Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter” – and the phenomenon of naming newly-discovered species after pop culture figures, such as Ampulex dementor (a wasp that shares qualities with Harry Potter’s Dementors), Otocinclus batmani (a fish whose tale features the Bat Symbol), and Spongiforma squarepantsii (a mushroom that looks very much like SpongeBob SquarePants). In exploring diverse and cross-cultural literary narratives with the sciences in mind, we will find that scientific concepts illuminate story structures wonderfully and unexpectedly, and that examining these realms in tandem provides an enriched perspective on both.