literary and artistic representations of the science of observation

literary and artistic representations of the science of observation
The topic for FORUM I is about the literary and artistic representations of the science of observation. The initial reading for discussion is Jonathan Swift’s satiric Gulliver’s Travels, “The Voyage to Lilliput” and “The Voyage to the Brobdingnagians”. Those sections seem related to the introduction into the British culture of the microscope and the telescope and the issues that technology and the “scientific” knowledge acquired thereby were raising. Each participant in Forum I is to either offer one of those issues, reference the related part of the reading, and explain his or her interpretation and/or add a contribution to an issue already raised. Then once you complete the assigned readings and viewings relating to LONGITUDE, you are to add another issue to this forum relating to Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, “The Voyage to Laputa”. Swift, as well as other writers, such as Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice, reflects in his literature the problems associated with vessels at sea that can not with any accuracy know where they are situated along an East/West axis. This problem created an opportunity for Swift to envision imaginary locations for satiric purposes just as Homer was able to do for his nationalistic epic purposes at a time when far less was known of the world outside of the Greek city states, and belief in mythological deities was pervasive. In Swift’s time the role of Astronomers to resolve the dilemma of longitude was either greatly supported or suspect. This was also a time when enlightenment seemed to depend upon seeking more scientific knowledge and creating technologies to support scientific observation (and eventually experimentation) as well as upon creating technologies that would make the new knowledge useful. The process of obtaining funding for such endeavors became associated with a form for PROPOSALS. The proposals were printed and placed into circulation among potential subscribers and the public at large. Watch the clip attached to this Forum to see a sample of some of the proposals to solve longitude that are actually less ludicrous than were the proposals offered for all sorts of “improvements.” Your second contribution to Forum I is to comment upon Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels, “The Voyage to Laputa.” Some of the satire connects with the role of astronomers, contemporary proposals, and the applications of new scientific knowledge, such as magnetic force. Forum I is available for you to begin making your contributions as soon as the associated material has been considered. Gulliver’s Travels is available from the Project Guttenberg online: The film on Longitude based on Dava Sobel’s book is available in YouTube

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