Evelyn Fox Keller

The piece by Evelyn Fox Keller is an excerpt from A Feeling for the Organism. This book "draws on her extensive conversations with [Barbara] McClintock and, using McClintock's own voice, documents McClintock's life and her basic assumption that scientific research requires a special 'sympathetic understanding' of nature" (323). This piece is unique among the works we have read to this point, because it includes no personal information about the author. I found myself no wiser about who Evelyn Fox Keller is from reading it. We have a woman writing about and as another woman - a woman examining the scientific method and understandings of another woman.

The feminist bent to the piece does not stop there. McClintock’s sympathetic understanding of nature extends to her understanding of scientific method. Contrary to the idea of rationality and passionless objectivity that is often associated with science, McClintock believes that “good science cannot proceed without a deep emotional investment on the part of the scientist,” (325). Emotion is a typical realm of the feminine, and often seen in a negative light. To let emotions take control is supposedly to prevent reason. But, as the epigraph that precedes the piece states: “There are two equally dangerous extremes-to shut reason out, and to let nothing else in. -Pascal” (324). McClintock does not want to throw away the scientific method, but rather to add to it.

The sympathetic understanding of organisms is a way of looking at the object of study as if it, too, were capable of being a subject. Not only capable, but a subject in fact, observing as it is observed. "What marks her as [a scientist] is her unwavering confidence in the underlying order of living forms, her use of the apparatus of science to gain access to that order, and her commitment to bringing back her insights into the shared language of science-even if doing so might require that language to change" (326). Just as writing the body of a woman might require language to perform in ways hitherto unknown, so too might McClintock's way of science require new language. In that way, she can be said to have "written the body" not with a pen but with her scientific studies.

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