C. P. Snow and the Struggle of Modernity

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C. P. Snow and the Struggle of Modernity

By John de la Mothe

An intellectual biography of a novelist, scientist, and civil servant who attempted to bridge the disparate worlds of modern science and the humanities.



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6 x 9 | 263 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72916-2

The condition of modernity springs from that tension between science and the humanities that had its roots in the Enlightenment but reached its full flowering with the rise of twentieth-century technology. It manifests itself most notably in the crisis of individuality that is generated by the nexus of science, literature, and politics, one that challenges each of us to find a way of balancing our personal identities between our public and private selves in an otherwise estranging world. This challenge, which can only be expressed as "the struggle of modernity," perhaps finds no better expression than in C. P. Snow. In his career as novelist, scientist, and civil servant, C. P. Snow (1905-1980) attempted to bridge the disparate worlds of modern science and the humanities.

While Snow is often regarded as a late-Victorian liberal who has little to say about the modernist period in which he lived and wrote, de la Mothe challenges this judgment, reassessing Snow's place in twentieth-century thought. He argues that Snow's life and writings—most notably his Strangers and Brothers sequence of novels and his provocative thesis in The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution—reflect a persistent struggle with the nature of modernity. They manifest Snow's belief that science and technology were at the center of modern life.

Part One. Introduction
1. Literature, Science, and the Modern Mind
Part Two. Context and Distance
2. Strangers and Brothers against the Grain
3. Blindness, Insight, and the Two Cultures
Part Three. Snow’s Triptych of Literature, Science, and Politics
4. Literature and the State of Siege
5. The Unneutrality of Science
6. Personal Power and Public Affairs
Part Four. Epilogue
7. C. P. Snow and the Struggle of Modernity
Select Bibliography

The late John de la Mothe was Canada Research Chair in Innovation Strategy and was a faculty member at the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa.

"C. P. Snow and the Struggle of Modernity is engaging and challenging. Its scholarship is impressive. Intelligence and sensitivity inform the analysis of this complex and most crucial subject matter. It is a first-rate intellectual biography."
—Alkis Kontos, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

". .. an original, provocative, and convincing study.... significant not only in its own right as the most comprehensive study to date of Snow's life and works but also as a successful integration of the three principal areas of his life and works: literature, science, and politics."
—Howard P. Segal, Associate Professor of History, University of Maine