May 7th this year marked the fiftieth anniversary of C. P. Snow’s “Two Cultures” speech in Cambridge, England. There were some scattered commemorations. Roger Kimball, writing in the February 1994 issue of The New Criterion, had already noted the naïveté and incoherence of Snow’s arguments, yet allowed that there was a grain of truth in them: “For there is an ingredient of irrationalism in Western culture that regularly manifests itself in anti-scientific biases of one sort or another. Certain varieties of romanticism belong here.”

That qualifier is well placed: “Certain varieties.” Romanticism, for all its emphasis on sensation over ratiocination, on heart over head, on the felt over the observed, shares a part of the human imagination with science. That imaginative region, properly stimulated, can inspire either a hypothesis or a sonnet equally well. Indeed,...

 
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