This week our origins lecture discussed the Royal Society and the Origins of the novel. The discussion started with questioning the term “Liberal Arts”. The original phrase was “The liberal arts and sciences”. Why did we cut of the term “sciences”? What does Liberal Arts mean? Where do the words Liberal Arts come from? Our speaker brought up his concern for the separation in buildings on a Liberal Arts campus. Why are the sciences and the humanities so clearly divided? He argued that the sciences and the arts and humanities belong together. He made the point that Liberal Arts ill be in charge of the digital world and it is very important that the humanities and the sciences work together.
Francis Bacon was part of the advancement of learning in 1605. Bacon expressed concern for the division in knowledge. He believed that if knowledge is separated it does not lead to anything good.
The Royal Society was founded in 1660 as a society for experimental science. The Royal Society still exists today Some of the members included Robert Boyle, a chemist, Robert Hooke, involved with the science of microscopy and John Wilkins, natural theologian. Other members included Christopher Wren, architect, Issac Newton, a specialist in math and physics. There was one woman who was involved. Margaret Carendish was invited to the 1667 meeting, but she was not allowed to join. It wasn’t until 1945 that the first female was invited. The motto of the Royal Society was “nullius in verba”, which translates as “take nobody’s word for it”. The Royal Society had a distrust of words. The Royal society not only distrusted words but they also did not trust the novel or fiction. The first novel origin date is debated. Perhaps it could have been in 1666 or as late at 1719.
What is the relationship between the Royal Society and the novel? Ian Watt lead to the rise of the novel. When people began reading the novel there was a huge expansion of the reading public. Other genres like the epic and romance were not for all readers. The novel differed because it depicted domestic life. The novel addressed things like possibility and probability, and social and societal individuals. The novels were finally about regular people, the day-to-day and acted as an instruction guide for readers so that they could learn how to do the right thing. The novel helped enforce morals; this lead to the rise in ideals regarding the control of young women, nationalists, maintaining class hierarchies.
I was a bit confused by the professor’s argument towards the end. Was he arguing for the scientific novel about real people? Was he arguing for “novelistic science”, the novel as a data narrative? Was his argument that the royal society fed the novel? I found that the biggest take away was that knowledge from different fields should be combined and presented together. I think it could be very beneficial if the humanities and the arts and sciences worked together to educate people.