From the Boston Globe:
We literary scholars have mostly failed to generate surer and firmer knowledge about the things we study. While most other fields gradually accumulate new and durable understanding about the world, the great minds of literary studies have, over the past few decades, chiefly produced theories and speculation with little relevance to anyone but the scholars themselves...
I think there is a clear solution to this problem. Literary studies should become more like the sciences. Literature professors should apply science's research methods, its theories, its statistical tools, and its insistence on hypothesis and proof.
That's a great sentiment - scientific thinking isn't just for scientists. But when you can't easily test your ideas against the physical world, it's easy to fall for the trap of cargo cult science
. It's easy to mistake jargon and meaningless statistics for real rigor.
What literary scholars should take from science is the habit of mind, best summed up by scientist par excellence Richard Feynman: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool."