ALICE IN THE WONDERLAND OF SCIENCE: INTERTEXTUAL FIGURES IN SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES

Vol.4, Issue 1, 2018, pp.19-28 Full text

Author: Charlène Meyers
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2548-3227 ☍

Affiliation: Specialized Translation and Terminology Unit, FTI-EII, Université de Mons, Belgium

Abstract
Since numerous scientific and mathematical concepts can unsurprisingly be found in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the book itself has been a great source of inspiration for many scientists. This paper gives an overview of how Alice finds her way into scientific articles. More precisely, it discusses intertextual figures that refer to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in a corpus of 29 scientific articles from disciplines including psychology, medicine or astrophysics. Results show that intertextual figures tend to be more explicit in the field of physics and medicine than those found in the field of psychology. Crucially, observations show that intertextual figures found in the collected scientific articles serve different purposes depending on the discipline that makes use of them.

Keywords: Alice in Wonderland, Intertextuality, Language for Specific Purposes

Article history:
Received: 30 May 2018;
Reviewed: 14 June 2018;
Accepted: 20 June 2018;
Published: 30 June 2018

Citation (APA6):
Meyers, C. (2018). Alice in the Wonderland of science: intertextual figures in scientific articles. English Studies at NBU, 4(1), 19-28. Retrieved from http://esnbu.org/data/files/2018/2018-1-2-meyers-pp19-28.pdf

Copyright © 2018 Charlène Meyers


This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0), which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. If you want to use the work commercially, you must first get the author's permission.

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Open Review


1.
Reviewer's name: Undisclosed
Review content: Undisclosed

2.
Reviewer's name: Tadd Graham Fernée, PhD, New Bulgarian University
Publons Reviewer Profile: https://publons.com/a/1219253 ☍

The article investigates intertextual figures that refer to Alice in Wonderland, in a corpus of scientific articles from psychology, medicine, and astrophysics, and shows how the intertextual figures serve different purposes depending on the discipline. The article develops a set of original theoretical tools to answer the question. The theoretical architecture of the article is excellent. It defines “reference types”, the “corpus”, and “intertextuality”, while mapping reference distribution upon an “explicitness continuum”. Using this clear and imaginative framework, it distinctly identifies the varying functions of the references.

I am not sure if the article teaches us something substantive about either Alice in Wonderland or the scientific disciplines. It is limited to a “functionalist” purview. However, the article incontestably makes a convincing case for a discursive overlap, without making any substantive claims about what this means upon either epistemic, cultural, or social planes. In not venturing any such perspective, it remains upon a formal and even superficial level. If theoretical boundaries are being pushed, what is the significance of these shifts? Why does it matter that fragments of this Victorian children’s literary work have been adopted to scientific idiom within so wide a disciplinary range? I am sure it may have important significance, but the article did not suggest what that might be. Yet, within the stated limits of the authors’ intentions, the case is very well made.

There is a second issue. The article cites “the emergence of socioterminology in 1980-1990” against “universalist” methodologies to defend “neologisms”, yet without arguing for this optic. The authors represent this methodological shift like the discovery that the earth is round, not flat. This is to simplify and misrepresent the problem. This debate is unclosed, and the “cultural turn” of the 1960s – against “universalism” – is not something that can be simply taken for granted. Deep incoherencies and problems are whitewashed when scholars accept this set of prevailing methodological norms as an established truth rather than a convention that might be contested.

The intended readership is the scholarly community working in linguistic and discourse analysis, concerned with the study of texts. However, it could be of interest to literature students, science students, and perhaps history students. It might appeal to a wider readership outside of these disciplines, for the style is accessible and clear. The article is very well written. It deserves to be published and read by the scholarly community, and hopefully also by the wider public.

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