Scribner Seminar Program
Reading the Cosmos
Instructor(s): Margaret Greaves, English
“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself,” says astronomer Carl Sagan. In this seminar, we will consider works from literature, history, astronomy, and philosophy that offer various ways of “knowing” the universe. We will begin in the year 1609, when Shakespeare’s sonnets appeared in print and Galileo turned his telescope to the stars and planets. From there, we will consider moments in intellectual history including the scientific revolution, William and Caroline Herschel’s observations of distant celestial bodies, Einstein’s theory of relativity, Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe, and Hawking’s popularization of theories of space-time. Although we will consider many discoveries in astronomy, we will pay particular attention to cosmology, the study of the origin, development, and fate of the universe. Through these investigations, we will chart a cultural history of the cosmos.