April 10-12, 2024

Mere Beauty?

Utah Symposium in Science and Literature 

This year's topic arises from reexaminations of beauty that are occurring broadly not only in the arts and across such disciplines as ethnic and disability studies, but also in biology, where dominant theories about the possible evolutionary purposes of beauty are being questioned. 

2024 Keynote Speakers

Claudia Rankine


Brian Greene


Bevil Conway




Knowing that even scientists like Einstein have persistently located beauty in “the mysterious,” we undertake this topic not to “solve” beauty but to trouble as well as to extend our understanding of it both as concept and as force.  If we might respond intuitively to an idea as vague as  “Beauty is Truth” and vice-versa, or that “a thing of beauty is a joy forever,” or that “death is the mother of beauty,” or even simply that beauty “provides pleasure to the senses,” what do those statements mean? If “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” whose senses and sense of pleasure are we talking about? 

 About the Symposium

The Utah Symposium in Science and Literature brings together major figures--in the sciences; in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and literary theory; and in the humanities, fine arts, and social sciences--to examine topics of interest across disciplines.

The foundational idea behind the symposium is that there is an important reciprocal influence between the sciences, the arts, and the humanities, though the ways in which current ideas are expressed and manifested, especially in our age of specialization, may be so different that the connections between them—as well as the ability to trace precedence—may not always be clear. Historically, for example, it is almost impossible for anyone who has even a basic understanding of Einstein to read much of Virginia Woolf's work without considering the impact of his ideas on her thinking, while chaos theory may have been predicted in the works of various 19th century writers. For both participants and observers, the eighth symposium will underscore the ways in which ideas are both generated and enriched by communication across disciplines. Symposium participants will discuss not only the scientific ideas embodied in literary and artistic works but also why—or whether—it is useful or necessary to communicate these ideas in works that are primarily literary or artistic rather than pedagogical or informational, and whether such communication actually furthers scientific exploration.

Past Symposia

Antonio Damasio

Thomas Metzinger

Jorie Graham

Lisa Randall

Linda Gregerson

Sanford Kwinter


Let us know if you'll be attending!