Call for Chapters: Teaching Science Writing

Deadline: 15 June 2022

As fans of the genre can attest, popular science writing belies the notion of “science” and “literature” as separate domains. Bestselling science writers borrow freely from the techniques of fiction writers to craft compelling narratives, memorable examples, and evocative representations of technical information. Scholars have long recognized the literariness of science writing: as pioneering work by Gillian Beer, George Levine, Devin Griffiths, Donna Haraway, and others attests, it is difficult to overestimate the historical traffic between science and literature. Since the early modern era (if not earlier), writers and scientists have routinely traded metaphors, images, and conceptual frameworks. 

Recently, popular science writing has played an important role in ongoing efforts to recover and celebrate the legacy of figures erased from dominant histories of science, including women, Black people, and queer people. At the same time, the genre raises persistent ethical dilemmas.  Besides the basic matter of whether science ought to be turned into entertainment, there is the matter of how literary devices interact with facts: for example, how might the imperative to use plot and other literary devices restrict what kinds of science becomes “popular” in the first place?  Such questions unfold amid widespread public distrust of science and scientists. Indeed, Bruno Latour’s 2004 musings on critique and climate denialism seem freshly relevant in 2022: what exactly is the role of critique during a time of rampant COVID-19 mis- and disinformation?

The time is ripe for science writing to assume a larger, more thoughtfully theorized place in humanities curricula. Teaching Science Writing aims to equip teacher-scholars with practical strategies for incorporating science writing into humanities courses. The collection will have sections devoted to science writing from previous eras and to twenty-first-century science writing: as such, the editor welcomes essays on “science writing”—as defined by potential contributors themselves—from the medieval era to the present. Potential essay topics might include

  • Practical strategies for pairing science writing with literary or other texts

  • Methods for teaching science writing as literature or applying literary frameworks to popular science writing

  • Using writing by popular science writers such as Elizabeth Kolbert, Ed Yong, Mary Roach, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Michael Pollan in first-year experience, writing, or general education courses

  • Using contemporary or historical science writing as part of community-engaged courses or service learning

  • Teaching science writing alongside film, television, or other media

  • Performing critique of science writing as it relates to ethical, diversity, or other concerns

  • Using science writing to facilitate interdisciplinary, collaborative, or team teaching

  • Using science writing to challenge or critique traditional disciplinary boundaries, canons, and epistemologies

  • Using science writing to engage nontraditional or underrepresented student populations

Please submit a 250–500-word abstract and a short bio or CV to Lisa Ottum (ottuml@xavier.edu) by 15 June 2022.

Authors will be notified of initial acceptance by late July 2022; pending peer review of the book prospectus, finished essays of 3,500–4,500 words will likely be due in August 2023. Queries are welcome, including requests for feedback on ideas.

css.php