The Two Cultures, Revisited: A Conversation with Stefan Collini

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Open Agenda Publishing, Oct 1, 2020 - Biography & Autobiography - 54 pages

The 'Two Cultures' debate of the 1960s between C.P. Snow and F.R. Leavis is one of the most misunderstood intellectual disputes of the 20th century. Most people think that the debate only revolved around the notion that our society is characterized by a divide between two cultures – the arts or humanities on one hand, and the sciences on the other. This book is based on an extended conversation between Howard Burton and University of Cambridge intellectual historian Stefan Collini— and author of the book, What Are Universities For?— which provides a careful examination and illuminating insights of what the issues really were in this debate.

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, Returning to the Source, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Cultural Assumptions - On the benefits of reading

II. Saving the World - C.P. Snow’s moral agenda

III. “Literary Osteoporosis” - Scientists vs. “literary intellectuals”

IV. Into the Mainstream - Snow becomes a sage

V. Enter F.R. Leavis - Questioning authority

VI. Combatting Clichés - The Industrial Revolution and challenging prose

VII. The Fallout - Immediate and longer-term effects

VIII. Lessons Learned? - Examining Leavis’ impact

IX. What Are Universities For? - Appreciating unique strengths

X. Constructive Engagement - Critical inquiry and watching one’s language

XI. The Humanities vs. The Sciences - Ruminations on progress

XII. General Implications - The ongoing relevance of The Two Cultures

About Ideas Roadshow Conversations Series 

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert in a relaxed and informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks. For other books in this series visit our website (


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A Note on the Text
The Conversation
Cultural Assumptions
Saving the World
Literary Osteoporosis
Into the Mainstream
Enter F R Leavis
Combatting Clichés
The Fallout
Lessons Learned? IX What Are Universities For?
Constructive Engagement
The Humanities vs The Sciences
General Implications

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About the author (2020)

Howard Burton, the founder and creator of Ideas Roadshow and Ideas on Film, holds a PhD in theoretical physics and an MA in philosophy. He was the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) from 1999-2007. During his time at PI, he also developed an extensive outreach programme for teachers, students and the general public. His experiences at developing the research and outreach mandates of the institute were described in the book, First Principles: Building Perimeter Institute, featuring a foreword by Nobel Laureated Roger Penrose.

Ideas Roadshow is an award-winning initiative, recipient of the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in 2018. Howard has hosted and filmed in-depth conversations with more than 100 of the world’s brightest thinkers, including 3 Nobel Laureates, across the arts, sciences, sports and games. 

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