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amoskowi's picture

Sorrows of an American

Having written my paper and reading the novel, I've moved on mentally from Dennett (who I keep accidently calling Denton by the way, I had to go through and "replace" it in my paper after I realized I'd been doing it) to how Hustvedt's book relates to the perspectives of evolution and science in general that we'd been exploring in class. The first parallel that struck me was the start of the references to the father's memoirs, and the quotation where he writes "If you are not interested in pocket gophers or how to catch them, move on to the next paragraph." (8). It reminded me humorously of Paul's question about who skipped over Darwin's lengthy description of pidgeons, only here we have a reference to it in the memior itself, in contrast to Darwin who seemingly felt no need to trim down details if they were part of his relevent experiences or thought processes. 

Interestingly, the next paragraph (of the novel, not the father's memior) expanded on my percieved parallel, discussing what makes it or doesn't make it into an autobiography. The notion of the contents being affected by "perspective, self-knowledge" etc. reminded me of the beggining of this class, when covering the crack and how that affects what is written in scientific text. This passage, though, also highlighted for me the differences between the subjectivity that affects scientific vs. non-scientific writing, namely the notion that leaving out information, or allowing your reader to skip a paragraph, is acceptable or even good in a way that it would not be in an account like Darwin's. The narrator says "there are stories that can't be told without pain to others or to oneself," indicating that keeping silent about these matters can be a positive thing, whereas in science hidding information, while it may be safer if the writer fears society's views, is never seen as a positive thing. It ties back to, ultimately, the feeling I have that while subjective inclusion and conclusion may be an inevitable and sometimes an enriching asset in science, it is always in pursuit of an answer independent of the subjectivity that brought it into existance. Other pieces, even an ideally nonfiction piece like a memior, does not aspire to that level of objective accuracy.  


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