How Literature and Film Shape and Reflect Public Attitudes toward Genetics
Powerful works of art enrich our understanding of the issues that matter most in our lives—not least in controversial areas of the biosciences. By exploring the dense cultural networks that shape science and technology, they help us see multiple dimensions of policy issues that might be opaque to other forms of analysis. Novels, from Frankenstein to Never Let me Go, have provided a space for reflection, for deepening and expanding our awareness of the impact of genetics on society.
Thinking about narrative can be of special value to bioethics because of the power stories possess to immerse readers in richly imagined worlds, worlds in which the complexity of issues can be explored on multiple levels. Equally important is attending to the genre of stories, because the conventions, characters, and images that cluster around a topic both shape and reflect the assumptions shared by different communities. Tracing shifts in genre conventions can be a powerful way of revealing how people are responding to a scientific discovery. The social consequences of science depend not only on how the population at large understands genetics research but also on cultural…
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- Hamann, P. (2019). Under surveillance: Genetic privacy in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. Journal of Literature and Science, 12(2), 62-79.
- Holloway, K. F. C. (2007). Private bodies/public texts: Literature, science, and states of surveillance. Literature and Medicine, 26(1), 269-276.
- Wald, P. (2005). What's in a cell?: John Moore's spleen and the language of bioslavery. New Literary History, 36(2), 205-225.
About ELSIhub Collections
ELSIhub Collections are essential reading lists on fundamental or emerging topics in ELSI, curated and explained by expert Collection Editors, often paired with ELSI trainees. This series assembles materials from cross-disciplinary literatures to enable quick access to key information.