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Two Cultures, The

The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, The Two Cultures and a Second Look

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Treā€Taliesin Cardiganshire to Hilda Vaughan Biography

a phrase supplied by the title of C. P. Snow's The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959) which became widely current in describing the separation of science and literature. The essay, originally Snow's Rede Lecture at Cambridge in 1959, lamented the ‘gulf of mutual incomprehension’ between scientists and writers, contrasting the formers' sometimes arrogant self-confidence with the diffidence displayed by literary intellectuals; Rutherford and Eliot served as his respective cases in point. Snow attributed the isolation of science and literature from one another to the specialization characteristic of the British educational system, which he compared unfavourably with those of the USA and USSR. A heated controversy ensued, as a result of which Snow published The Two Cultures and a Second Look in 1964, defending his views and enlarging on his belief in the need to make science more widely accessible through changes in educational practice. Among Snow's leading antagonists was F. R. Leavis, whose Two Cultures? The Significance of C. P. Snow (1962) and ‘“Literarism” versus “Scientism”’ (Times Literary Supplement, 4 April 1970) accused Snow of abusing the concept of culture and of grossly undervaluing the importance of literature as the chief channel for the transmission of traditional values.

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