Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CFP - The Two Cultures in Question

Art and Science Now: The Two Cultures in Question

Science Museum and Tate Modern, London, 23-24 January 2009

Call for Papers

On 7 May 1959, C. P. Snow delivered the Rede Lecture in Cambridge on the subject of 'The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution'. A failed scientist and a moderately successful novelist, Snow drew on his experience as a Civil Service Commissioner to consider what seemed to him to be an increasing fissure between 'literary intellectuals' and 'natural scientists'. In part an attack on the perceived insularity, decadence and political sterility of the London literary scene, in part a complaint about the poverty of a humanities education and a demand for curriculum reform in schools and universities, the lecture was, most fundamentally, a critique of the lack of mutually intelligible exchange between the two cultures. As the 1950s drew to a close, Snow believed that only a national culture as aware of the importance of knowing the second law of thermodynamics as of knowing the plays of Shakespeare, would be fit to offer developing countries the scientific and technological solutions to poverty and deprivation that were so urgently required.

The London Consortium is bringing together the Science Museum and Tate Modern in a two-day conference to mark fifty years of the two cultures. Divided into a more specialised academic event and a more public occasion, it will consider the history of this debate, asking whether Snow's critique has been addressed by the increase in multi-disciplinary research, alongside the expansion of educational curricula and provision within science and the humanities. But in a world of increasing disciplinary specialisation in which there has been exponential growth of sub-disciplines in both science and the humanities, it will also ask whether the distinctions between and indeed within the two cultures might have become further entrenched. The most fundamental question this celebration of 50 years since Snow's lecture will ask, though, is how the terms of the debate may have changed.

We invite papers for a conference at the Science Museum on 23rd January 2009, that consider questions such as the following: How have new technologies such as the internet and new resources like Wikipedia reconfigured our sense of disciplinary boundaries, hierarchies of knowledge and the places where cultural capital is held? Has the new dominance within general culture of ideas drawn from the life sciences, molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry, ecology, epidemiology, and their unpredictable pressings upon fundamental questions of how and why humans and other organisms should find themselves and their relationships defined in particular ways, led to an ever more complex and porous boundary between science and the humanities? How are Snow's notions of disciplinary and national cultures to be rethought through the paradigms and politics of globalisation?

Please send 200-word abstracts for papers (20 minutes maximum) by November 1st to Dr. Laura Salisbury, School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, or e-mail:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Michaelmas 2008

This term we will be reading about the science of education.

Copies of all the readings will be placed in our box file in the Whipple Library. Organised by Daniel Friesner (Science Museum) and Melanie Keene (HPS). We meet on Mondays from 7.30 to 9pm in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College.

All are welcome!

20th October
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile, ou De l'éducation (1762), Book 2, especially the discussion of children’s reasoning, which is pp. 89-126 in the Penguin edition translatedby Allan Bloom; pp. 63-107 in the Everyman edition translated by Barbara Foxley; and paragraphs 254-412 in the Grace Roosevelt translation, available online.

3rd November
Maria Edgeworth, The good French governess (1801). Available here and the same edition has also been digitised by Google books. If you have difficulty downloading either of these, a version without page numbers is available here.

17th November
Otto Ernst, Flachsmann als Erzieher (1900). Translated by H M Beatty as Master Flachsmann (1904). Available here.

1st December
Chas. Hope Semir, Driven to suicide! or, the life of an assistant master in a London board school (1889). There is a copy of this pamphlet in the Cambridge University Library, classmark 1890.7.610, order in Rare Books Room.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

CFP - BSLS Conference 2009

British Society for Literature and Science
Conference 2009

The 4th annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science will take place at the University of Reading on 27th-29th March, 2009. Keynote speakers will include Dame Gillian Beer, formerly King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge; Patrick Parrinder, Professor of English at the University of Reading; and Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeontology at Cambridge. The Society invites proposals for 20-minute research papers addressing any aspect of the interaction between literature and science; collaborative panels of two or three papers; and papers or panels on the teaching of literature and science. We welcome work on literature from all periods and countries, and on all aspects of science, including medicine and technology. Presenters need not be based in UK institutions.

Please email proposals of up to 400 words to Dr John Holmes ( by Monday 1st December, together with a 100-word biographical note (or in the case of a panel, abstracts and notes for each speaker). Please send abstracts in the body of messages; do not use attachments. Alternatively, abstracts and proposals may be posted to:

Dr John Holmes
Department of English and American Literature
University of Reading
PO Box 218

Please address any queries to Dr John Holmes at the email or postal address above.