As one would expect, some of the very best scientists had and have plenty of energy and interest to spare, and we came across several who had read everything that literary people talk about. But that’s very rare because they can say something like please write my essay Essayontime. Most of the rest, when one tried to probe for what books they had read, would modestly confess, “Well, I’ve tried a bit of Dickens,” rather as though Dickens were an extraordinarily esoteric, tangled and dubiously rewarding writer, something like Rainer Maria Rilke.
Snow is speaking here of natural scientists. To the extent that the culture of social science apes the culture of physics as created by actual physicists, then, the loss of a promising source of material on which to ground critique is inevitable. Snow, as a natural scientist and not just a novelist, did not confront this difficulty in his own studies in physics, of course: there is little or no relevant dogma that novels might unfold for natural scientists. They can work quite well without novels, thank you. On the second, though, however, the applications of science in everyday life, however, do indeed represent a realm in which lack of such reading is a likely handicap for natural scientists (and particularly for engineers).
How to read novels to inform rural education critique. Reading a novel should ideally set up a buzz in readers’ heads. This buzz is a sensibility to carry with one especially when not actively reading, but reflecting on the reading done and the ongoing project of reading. The buzzing resembles a complex music, in this case, composed not only of the plot being recounted (though certainly that) but of, yes, ontological and epistemological matters of key importance to critique.
In fact, the buzzing itself is a kind of ongoing, though disorganized, critique in readers’ minds about the qualities of the characters acting in a novel, the nature of the society in which they struggle, and the dynamics of such struggle at the level of everyday difficulties. These issues are partly social, political, economic, and institutional matters. And such features are among the things for education researchers to pick out amid the buzzing. The issues encountered should actually be familiar at some level, even for those not raised rurally.