The poet Novalis wrote at the end of the eighteenth century: “The Poet understands nature better than the Scientist.” How can this be? Is any other approach possible today than scientific method, can knowledge of nature be gained other than through analysis, breaking down, and fragmentation? Science and the arts see the world differently. Both are concerned with knowledge and insight. But while science proceeds analytically and quantitatively, literature engages with nature differently, through language. It operates not only with the conceptual aspects of language, but also with its associative functions, and make use of images and symbolic forms of representation. The understanding of reality and nature which is mediated through poetic language differs from the purely analytic. It can be broader and may capture more of the essence, because it embraces a level of imagery and myth which evades scientific conceptualisation.
This domain conceives of scientific and aesthetic/poetic approaches not as mutually exclusive, but as complementary. The explication of literature has an important role to play in interdisciplinary engagement with nature. Its aim is the critical analysis of the textual qualities of knowledge about nature and culture, of literature’s rhetorical tropes, narratives and images.