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!