War of the Worlds? Science and Religion in Contemporary Literature

Third party funded individual grant


Project Details

Project leader:
Dr. Patrick Müller


Contributing FAU Organisations:
Lehrstuhl für Anglistik, insbesondere Literaturwissenschaft

Funding source: DFG-Einzelförderung / Sachbeihilfe (EIN-SBH)
Start date: 01/05/2014


Abstract (technical / expert description):


The principal objective of War of the Worlds? Science and Religion in Contemporary Literature is to illuminate and explain the continuing relevance of the discursive exchange between religion and the natural sciences for the literatures of the English speaking world. In order to provide a convincing methodological foundation for this complex field of study, the project draws on and combines two different theoretical premises. For one, it finds a rationale explaining the controversy under examination, one which is deeply embedded in the history of ideas of western societies, in the debate, initiated (or rtaher revived) by C. P. Snow in 1959, about the two cultures (the humanities and the natural sciences) dominating the intellectual life of the occident. In the context of this debate, the project will then focus on the arguments exchanged between champions of a religiously informed Weltanschauung (representative of the humanities in the antithesis Snow has formulated) and those favouring scientific explanations of the mechanisms behind the universe and human life. This controversy has been fought with increasing (emotional) vigour over the past few decades. Traditionally, religion and philosophy were supposed to provide the relevant answers to those fundamental questions about the origin and nature of the universe as well as correspondent problems concerning the meaning and telos of human life; in recent years, however, intellectuals from different academic disciplines have claimed this prerogative, more insistently than ever, for the natural sciences. The project will therefore reconstruct the various arguments exchanged by the several contestants in the controversy, and this survey will provide the basis for the analyses of select fictional texts dealing with the issues at hand. The aim of the study is, then, to reveal the different ways in which these texts capture the essence of the controversy, translating as they do several of its fundamental aspects into narratological concepts, providing profound ideological negotiations and new contextual frameworks. The universal sign system of language being the link between religion, natural science, and literature, it will appear that both the ideological trenches between and discursive strategies of these different disciplines are not as incompatible as they may appear at first sight. Literature has always been concerned with the fundamental questions that are currently under debate (and have been so ever since the advent of Baconian science), and it will appear that its narratives can perhaps show a way out of some of the ideological impasses intellectuals have manoeuvred themselves into. In this way, the project will contribute substantially to a central aspect of contemporary cultural studies and it will help us reach a deeper understanding of one of the most enduring intellectual contests the history of ideas has ever seen.


Last updated on 2018-22-11 at 18:41