Challenging the Divide

Ever since Descartes there has been vigorous debate about the separation of mind and body, and of rational thought and feeling. Challenging the Divide argues against dualistic views and proposes a re-engagement and cross-fertilisation between the ‘sciences’ (rational, supposedly dispassionate, thought) and ‘poetry’ (the arts, and felt thought and emotions). Contemporary scientists and poets offer their views on how both modes of thinking inspire and inform their work. Australian scientists and poets have contributed essays and poems, and the work of international writers such as Lewis Thomas, Miroslav Holub and Primo Levi is discussed. Erica Jolly puts the case for cross-disciplinary approaches in schools, to excite the curiosity and imagination of young students. As Nobel Prize-winner Professor Peter C. Doherty says in his contribution to this book, ‘the more that we can do to give our young people a solid acquaintance with both the sciences and the humanities the better our society will be’.


Katharine England on Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry published by the South Australian State Library and Lythrum Press and launched on Wednesday March 10th 2010 in the Institute Room of the State Library of South Australia by Robyn Williams AM science writer and broadcaster.


In the ‘Well Read’ section of the Book Page of saweekend March 20th 2010 in Adelaide’s Saturday Advertiser, Katharine England has reviewed Ian McEwan’s latest novel Solar. The unattractive protagonist is a theoretical physicist who, in his fifties, is ‘fat, bald, lazy, greedy and devious’. After 'fate drops a new solar solution into his lap', he believes he will be able to 'wreak revenge for past indignities'. He goes to the Arctic Circle with a ‘group of artists to experience the effects of climate change for himself.' Katharine England writes 'the plot is beautifully shaped to bring him his comeuppance on all fronts in a fine comic finale.'

Katharine England refers to a statement by Ian McEwan who said that 'he agonised at 16 over the school-enforced choice between art and science and he now writes novels that deliberately bring the “two cultures” intimately together.’

Lythrum Press and the State Library of South Australia

are delighted with the success of the launch, in the Institute Room of the State Library, by science writer and broadcaster for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Radio National

Robyn Williams AM


Challenging the Divide

Erica Jolly

 An appreciative audience enjoyed Robyn Williams' enthusiastic engagement with and pleasure in this book which, he said, one could thoroughly enjoy by reading through and/or dipping into it time and again.


If you would like to order this book which seeks to encourage the re-establishment of connections between the sciences, the humanities and the arts

contact Lythrum Press.

or e-mail


The beautiful cover is crystallized sulfur photographed under a microscope by mineralogist and photographer Hans Fander



Continuing the review Katharine England then makes a connection between his schooling and Challenging the Divide. She wrote:

 ‘South Australian poet and teacher Erica Jolly is convinced that the choice between the sciences as “mind” or rational thought and the arts as “body” or feeling is an artificial and damaging one.’

‘In Challenging the Divide she has undertaken a brief historical overview of the cross-fertilisation of the arts and the sciences and gathered together an impressive range of evidence from contemporary scientists and poets on how the two modes of thinking inspire and inform their work. Jolly puts an engaging personal case for cross-disciplinary approaches in schools “to excite the imagination and curiosity of young students”, supported with compelling responses from Australian and American scientists and examples of installations and poetry from international and Australian – particularly South Australian – practitioners.’