Monday, December 18, 2006

Research Fellowship

Literature and Science Research Fellowship
University of Glamorgan

Research Fellow
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Ref: HUM291
Salary: £19,920 - 30,087 per annum
2 years Fixed Term

Applications are invited for a two-year Research Fellowship in English
Literature. The Division of English achieved a rating of 4 in the 2001

The successful candidate will be required to conduct high level research in
the field of Literature and Science in any period from the late eighteenth
century to the present day. The Fellow will be attached to the newly
formed 'Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science' and will play an
important role in contributing to the Centre's development.

The starting salary for this post will be £19,920.

Informal enquires can be addressed to Professor Andrew Smith
(; Professor Jeff Wallace ( and Dr
Martin Willis (

The application procedure is detailed below. As well as being available
here, application forms and further particulars may be obtained by
accessing our web pages at , or by emailing us at

When requesting an application form, please quote reference HUM291.

Closing Date: 03 Jan 2007

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Doctor, doctor...

Next term the Science and Literature Reading Group will focus on a series of short stories about doctors, as chosen by Daniel Friesner (many thanks for all his help!). Most of the texts are available online (follow the links below), and photocopies will be available in the Whipple Library box file from the beginning of term. We meet, as usual, on alternate Mondays from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College. Please contact Melanie Keene (mjk32) if you have any questions about the group, or if you would like to volunteer to introduce one of the sessions.

Monday 29 January
Anton Chekhov, "Anyuta" (1886) and "A Doctor's Visit" (1898)

Monday 12 February
Franz Kafka, "A Country Doctor" (1919)

Monday 26 February
Ernest Hemingway, "Indian Camp" (1925) and "A Day's Wait" (1936)

Monday 12 March
William Carlos Williams, "The Use of Force" (1938) and "The Girl with a Pimply Face" (1938)

Friday, December 01, 2006

"Pathologies" Conference


Questions of embodiment in literature, arts and sciences

The Inaugural International Conference of the

Glamorgan Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science

August 20-21, 2007

Plenary Speakers:

Tim Armstrong, Kelly Hurley & Jonathan Sawday

The newly formed Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science, based at the University of Glamorgan, would welcome papers on topics falling under the title of ‘Pathologies’. Abstracts of no more than one page of A4 (approx 400-500 words) should be sent to all of the Conference organisers, and Co-Directors of the Centre, Professor Andrew Smith, Professor Jeff Wallace and Dr Martin Willis by February 28, 2007. Decisions will be made in March 2007.

To consider how the body has been pathologized is to ask questions of what it means to be human. As the originating site of humanity the body (extending from the individual to society and nation) is the physical, metaphorical and philosophical place for the inscription of selfhood, identity, normality and change. The multiple pathologies of the body invite us to reflect upon bodily conditions and behaviours that mark out the boundaries of the individual, the social and the national as well as their transgressions. Where does the self begin and end? How do we construct normality, deformity, and monstrosity? How do culture, society and the individual relate and connect across the many pathologies that invade, infect, distress and reconstruct the human?

This conference invites the submission of abstracts for 20 minute papers dealing with pathologies (broadly defined) across the intersections of literature and science or the arts and science. Papers may deal with any historical, artistic or literary period. Topics may include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

- Representations of disease

- The Socio-politics of medical research

- The art and science of early modern medicine/pathology

- Dissection

- The body and the machine

- Gothic bodies

- Cultural pathologies of identity

- Pathologizing gender through science

- Neurasthenia and modernism

- The degenerate body

Please send your abstract, together with your name, university affiliation and position to all of,, or alternatively to one of the organisers at: Glamorgan Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science (RCLAS), Science Imagined Conference, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, CF37 1DL, UK.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

SLSA Conference

**Call for Papers and Proposals**
The 21st Annual Conference of the SLSA (Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts)

-Nov. 1-4, 2007
-Portland, Maine (USA)
-Topic: CODE
-Deadline for paper and panel submissions: March 15, 2007
-Plenary Speakers: N. Katherine Hayles, UCLA; Brian Massumi, Université de Montréal
-Conference website:

Biological and algorithmic, protector of secrets and porthole to mysteries, universal and singular, code is an invitation to thought. Code can be “wet” (genetic, organic, human), “dry” (digital, mathematical, logical), something in-between, neither, or both (linguistic, symbolic, religious, moral, legal). Code is the meeting ground of strange bedfellows, the cipherer and decipherer, the domain of law and its subversion, communication and privacy. Code is about patterns, sequences, systems, translations, substitutions. It can bind, trick, and free. Modern technologies are affording us more and more keys to unlock nature’s code and more opportunities to manipulate it.

**We welcome paper and panel submissions that explore any type/aspect/nature/culture of code in any period of history. Also welcome are submissions on any aspect of science's relationship with literature and the arts, including ones presented in nontraditional formats (such as film/video, performance, music, or visual art).**

For more information, please see

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

SciSoc Talk


Speaker: Prof Raj Persaud, Maudsley Hospital

Date: Thursday 23rd November 2006

Time: 8pm-9pm

Venue: Pharmacology Lecture Theatre, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sullivan Readings

Dear All,

For our last session this term we will be looking at J.W.N. Sullivan
and the link between science journalism and literary modernism.

The following readings are now available in the Science & Literature
box file in the Whipple Library. Apologies for the not brilliant state
of some of the copies.

(you can get a copy card for £1 from the desk and make a copy though)

We look forward to seeing you soon.

best wishes,


Primary reading:

from the Athenaeum, 1919:

J.W.N. Sullivan, The Place of Science (no. 4641, 11 April 1919,
p. 176);
Science & the Laity (no 4643, 24 April 1919, pp. 239-40);
The Justification of the Scientific Method (no 4644, 2 May 1919,
pp. 274-5).

The debate on Art & Science: Roger Fry, Art & Science (no. 4649,
6 June 1919, pp. 434-5);
I.A. Richards, Art & Science I, 27 June 1919;
H.W. Crundell, Art & Science II, 4 July 1919;
J.W.N. Sullivan, Science & Art, no. 1069, 24 Oct 1919,
pp. 1069-1070.

Secondary reading:

Michael Whitworth, '"Pièces d'identité": T. S. Eliot,
J.W. N. Sullivan and Poetic Impersonality.' English Literature
in Transition 39.2 (1996): 149-70.

I've also put in pp. 94-97 from Lawrence Rainey's anthology
'Modernism', on Imagism.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lent dates

An advance announcement that the dates for next term's meetings have been set for Mondays 29th January, 12th February, 26th February, and 12th March. As usual we will meet from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College. Put them in your diary!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Crowther - 13th Nov

Daniel Friesner's introduction to J.G. Crowther's 1929 comments on science journalism raised some intriguing discussion points. Crowther's distinction between literary imagination and scientific imagination, and his claim that the science journalist needs somehow to combine the two, was felt as a challenge that science writers still face today.

Two interesting comparisons were made, firstly to George Orwell's essay on Politics and the English Language (c. 1946/7), where Orwell asserts that good writing conjures visual images. The second comparison was to Dedre Gentner's work in cognitive psychology, where a structure-mapping theory of analogy is proposed. An effective analogy is said to convey relations, rather than properties, of the analogised entity. Gebner uses T.S. Eliot's poem 'The Hollow Men' as an example of an imprecise, rich poetic analogy as contrasted to the solar system / atom analogy which is more clear and systematic.

Following from this discussion of visual images, analogy, and contrasts or connections between science and poetry, we might pursue the following areas:

1. The science journalism of J.W.N. Sullivan, particularly his contributions to The Athenaeum (on relativity) which triggered a debate on 'Art and Science' with Roger Fry and I.A. Richards participating. This debate is discussed in relation to the development of T.S. Eliot's aesthetics by Michael Whitworth in his article 'Pieces d'identite', in English Literature in Transition, 39:2, 1996. The key articles are: Sullivan, 'The Place of Science' , which discusses the transformation of facts into impersonal theory; and 'The Justification of the Scientific Method', which proposes an aesthetic impulse motivating the formation of scientific theories. The subsequent articles by Fry and Richards are simply titled 'Art and Science'.

2. The imagist manefesti, published in literary magazines during the 1910s. The imagist principles and poems, while not directly engaging with science, offer a contrasting example of images used to communicate experience.

3. Metaphysical poetry, where analogies might work in a rather different way to the Eliot example offered by Gebner. For example, John Donne's 'The Flea':

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Next term...

At about this stage of term we usually start planning a theme for what we'll explore next.

Possibilities for Lent 2007 include:

-Literature and Medicine
-Thomas Pynchon
-How do we do Science and Literature?
-The Planets

Please do let me know if you have any other suggestions, and if you'd like to lend your support, or have some ideal readings, for one of the above themes.


13th November

At tomorrow night's meeting Daniel Friesner will introduce J.G. Crowther's "Science as a material of literature: the psychology", from his book Short Stories In Science. This will be available from tomorrow morning in the Whipple Library box file for photocopying. Apologies for the late notice!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

30th October recap

Thank you to everyone who managed to come along on Monday, and a warm welcome to our new members!

At the meeting we continued our discussion of contemporary science journalism, in particular the recent reporting of climate change research and the Government's Stern Report, and the media phenomenon of the Darwin Online website launch.

We also began our study of Crowther's writings, in particular his claim to have 'invented' science journalism in his autobiography Fifty Years With Science. We explored how he had come to a career in science writing, his choice of topics, his liking for short sentences, and his habits of name-dropping! We compared his project briefly to contemporaneous developments in America, something we are keen to pursue in future sessions, and would welcome any suggestions for readings.

If you have any questions or ideas, or would like to be able to post to this blog, you should be able to email me by clicking on my name below.

Hope to see you next time,


Friday, October 27, 2006

Next week...

...we will continue our discussion of contemporary science journalism, looking in more detail at specific examples - so please bring along a few articles!

We also hope to begin our exploration of J. G. Crowther: copies of the following texts are now available in the Science and Literature Reading Group box file in the Whipple Library; originals can be found in the Cambridge University Library. If you're short of time, then concentrate on the short autobiographical chapter (we'll discuss the rest in November).

-Chapter four of Crowther's autobiography, Fifty Years with Science (1970), '1927-1928: Inventing Science Journalism'.

-The DNB article on Crowther by Jane Gregory, available here.

-Chapter one of The Progress of Science (1934), 'The Cavendish Laboratory'.

-Chapter two of Science Unfolds the Future (1955), 'Beyond the Earth'.

-Chapter twenty two of Soviet Science (1935), 'The Lenin Academy of Agricultural Science'.

We look forward to seeing you at Darwin College at 7.30pm!

Katy and Melanie

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

16th October recap

Thanks to everyone who came along to last night's well-attended meeting - apologies for the rather crowded room! I hope you found the discussion stimulating and interesting, and will be able to join us in a fortnight for our next seminar, when we'll probably be getting down to some more 'literary' stuff as we focus on the journalism of J.G. Crowther.

For those who couldn't attend, Katy introduced the session by drawing out several features of our featured Government report:

-Calling for a 'cultural 'sea-change' in UK science, towards 'open and positive communication with the media'
-The news/science writing relationship (the former with a quite different set of values) - e.g. the naval gun, nuclear waste
-'Science is only part of the story' - interwoven with other concerns (ethical, political, economic, consumer interets, etc.)

She then identified some possible discussion points for the rest of the session:

-Coverage of GM 1999 as context
-Shift from PUS to PEST
-How different constituencies use terms like 'science', 'society', 'values'
-Differences between print media/other media
-Historical perspectives on the Turney quote - science and news 'a poor fit'
-Historical perspectives on risk perception issue
-RAS argument - horoscopes and other 'unorthodox' material 'tends to weaken in the public mind the validity of the rational approach to problems'
-Can journalists really be 'trained' to handle science in a different way if larger forces within the media industry define their handling of stories? E.g. confrontation format and circulation competition
-What is the status/efficacy of RS, COPUS in relation to science/society?
-Tension between regulation of how facts are used/principle of free speech
-Structures of power in relation to distinction between 'the majority view' and 'quixotic minorities'
-Analogy between scientists and other professional groups, e.g. politicians, actors
-Rhetoric of war in relation to contemporary media as a problematic context for other professionals, e.g. 'take the war into the enemy's camp' (scientist turns journalist)
-Gender issues in the report

Other topics that proved fascinating points for debate included:

-Authority of science/scientists
-Processes of scientific method - how and if represented in journalism
-Scientific versus journalistic objectivity
-Images of science and scientists - both fictional and 'real-life'
-Uncertainty of scientific knowledge
-The disciplinary boundaries of science and medicine - are their journalistic traditions and conventions separate or conflated?
-Dialogue within scientific communities; between 'the public' and scientists; as a model for scientific journalism
-Science itself as a social construct and irretrievably tied to political, ethical, economic, etc. factors, versus (at least the image of) an isolated, disinterested profession which shouldn't have to answer for ethical consequences - why does this idea seem so important?
-Audience - how to respond to articles? Intended to stimulate further thought/responses? Or to accept facts? Should articles be 'dumbed up' or 'down'?
-Prescriptions for how to write science journalism - balanced voices; particular narratives; 'eloquence is no substitute for expertise'. Should there just be one model for how this is to be done?
-The pluralities of current science journalism genres, both in print and on tv, radio, and the internet (not reflected in the report)

Hopefully we'll be coming back to address some of these questions in future weeks.

P.S. The text for the New York Times report on 'OJ's Blood and the Big Bang' can be found online here (with Daniel's thanks to Peter Lipton for drawing his attention to the article): if anyone has other particularly relevant, interesting, or entertaining examples then do let me know and I'll add them to the blog.

Monday, October 09, 2006

BSLS Conference

The Second Conference of the British Society for Literature and Science

Proposals for 20-minute papers are invited for the second annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science. The conference will be held at the Birmingham and Midlands Institute in central Birmingham, hosted by the University of Central England, from 29-31 March 2007. Plenary speakers include Sally Shuttleworth, Robert Crawford and Jenny Uglow.

Papers may address topics in the interactions of literature and science in any period and any languages. Presenters need not be based in UK institutions.

We also invite panel proposals for three papers of 20 minutes or four papers of 15 minutes; members of the panel should be drawn from more than one institution.

Please send an abstract of no more than 400 words and a 100-word biographical note (or in the case of a panel, abstracts and notes for each speaker) to, by 30 November 2006. Please send abstracts in the body of messages; do not use attachments.

Alternatively, abstracts and proposals maybe posted to Dr Stuart Robertson, School of English, University of Central England, Perry Barr, Birmingham B42 2SU, UK.

Please address any queries to Dr Stuart Robertson at the email or postal address above.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What is Science Journalism?

This term the group will explore the question 'what is science journalism?'.

We will meet fortnightly on Mondays 16th and 30th October, and 13th and 27th November, from 7.30-9pm, in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College. All welcome!

For the first session we will be discussing contemporary science journalism, alongside the 'Science and the Media' section of the Government Select Committee on Science and Technology's third report. This is available here.

If you're thinking of attending then please bring along a few cuttings from recent newspapers or magazines to help with our discussion. For example, you might want to browse the New Scientist, Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Independent, or BBC websites for some ideas.

In following sessions we will go back in time to see how the aims and problems of communication have been addressed in previous centuries, including the writings of J.G. Crowther, the nineteenth century periodical press, and earlier broadsides. A selection of these texts will be available in the Whipple library from the beginning of term for reading and photocopying, and once again feel free to bring your own examples.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I first went along to the science and literature reading group in early 2004, rather unsure what to expect, not at all clear that a quantum physicist would fit in, but willing to give it a try for a session or two. It turned out to be one of the happiest discoveries of my time in Cambridge -- a group of people from diverse backgrounds, genuinely interested in interdisciplinary discussion, sometimes scholarly, sometimes conversational, almost always lively and interesting.

Over the last couple of years the group's discussions have ranged far and wide. We've looked at science in contemporary drama, Victorian popular science, Edgar Allan Poe's decidedly strange cosmological speculations, the splendid Moon Hoax, Charles Babbage's life, works, trials and tribulations, Luria's fascinating account of a Russian mnemonist, some eccentric seventeenth century views of other worlds, and much else besides. We've made a couple of trips to see Aristophanes' "Clouds" and Brecht's "Life of Galileo", and organised a screening of "Fermat's Last Tango", one of the regrettably few musicals to attempt an account of the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture.

What has all this taught me?

First -- and I suspect this is probably true of many scientists -- that although I read quite widely, there are some important senses in which I don't know how to read.

Second, despite that, it is possible to contribute. We all bring our own perspectives and insights to a text, and some of them may be fresh to others; we all miss things that others pick up.

Third, that it's a pretty good way to get yourself thinking about scientific practice, other people's views of science and scientists, and good and bad ways of communicating science to a wider readership.

And fourth, worthy though those reasons are, a more important discovery to me is that sharing thoughts and perspectives on an interesting text can be enormously enjoyable and intellectually stimulating in the right sort of company.

If you can spare an evening every fortnight during Cambridge term, I'm not sure there are many more life-enhancing ways of spending the time.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Michaelmas meetings

Dates for next term are now confirmed: we will meet on Mondays 16th and 30th October, and 13th and 27th November, from 7.30-9pm, in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College. All welcome!

The texts we'll be reading will be announced shortly...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Once upon a time

You can find details of some of the Group's past themes and chosen texts here.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who are we?

The Science and Literature Reading Group is run by the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge and the Department of English & Media at Anglia Ruskin University. The group welcomes anybody who is interested in exploring the relations between literature and science, technology or medicine to join in our fortnightly meetings at Darwin College [note - we now meet at Homerton College]. Each term we select a set of texts on a given theme - past themes include literary technologies, relativity, and science and drama. At our seminars a brief introduction is followed by informal discussion of the text in hand.

This blog intends to provide an opportunity for those attending the group to access further information about the texts we are working on, and to encourage newcomers to attend: it will contain details of the dates and themes of seminars alongside additional readings, reports of meetings, links to other events and groups engaging with Science and Literature, a forum to discuss ideas for future sessions, introductory material prepared by members of the group, and whatever else takes our fancy!