Friday, May 29, 2009

Oxford Literature and Science Seminar

Details of the Oxford Literature and Science Seminar can be found on their blog here. Coming up on 12th June they host Jean-Fran├žois Peyret (founder and director of the Tf2 theatre company, Paris), as he speaks about Les Variations Darwin. Peyret's work has included productions such as Les Variations Darwin, Galileo, and Le Cas de Sophie K, all of which involved collaborations with scientists.

1st June

We shall conclude this term's meetings with a screening of 'Fantastic Voyage', at 7.30pm in Adrian's rooms at Wolfson College. Please contact me (mjk32) if you would like to attend, as places are limited, and I will provide further directions. There will be popcorn!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Conference – Talking Books: ‘Novel History’

Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Saturday 6th June

As historical fiction enjoys a huge commercial renaissance, this debate will explore how far the changes in the last forty years of historiography means that novelists willing to spend real time in the archives and libraries are now producing a new kind of historical fiction, more accurate and thus more truthful about the past, than the work of their predecessors.

Sarah Dunant, (BIH Research Fellow) writer, broadcaster and critic. She has written eleven novels, four of which have been short listed for awards, three screen plays and edited two books of essays. She worked for many years with the BBC in radio and television, producing and presenting arts documentaries and magazine programmes , most notably The Late Show on BBC 2 (1989 - 1996)  and Night Waves (Radio 3 1996- 2004). Her recent novels The Birth of Venus ( set in Florence in 1490s ) and In the Company of the Courtesan ( Venice 1550s ) have been international best sellers and the final volume of the Renaissance trilogy  Sacred Hearts  will be published in June 2009 .

Hilary Mantel, studied law at LSE and Sheffield University. Her nine novels include A Place of Greater Safety, set in Paris during the Revolution, and The Giant OBrien, set in London in the 1780s. For her new book she has shifted back to the Tudor era; Wolf Hall traces the early career of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIIIs minister, and will be followed by a second novel to conclude Cromwells story.

John Sutherland (UCL) is the Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus at UCL. He has written a number of books on Fiction, including: Fiction and the Fiction Industry, Bestsellers, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. He is currently engaged on writing The Lives of the Novelists for Profile Books.

Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck) is Professor of History at Birkbeck. She is the award-winning author of nine books, including books on Irish history, gender and "the body", the history of psychological thought, modern warfare, the emotions, and sexual violence. She is currently writing a history of humanity and animality.

Saturday 6th June  3pm  Room B36  Birkbeck Main Building followed by a drinks reception

This event is free and open to all - please email Julia Eisner if you would like to attend.

Conference – The Open Ground: Biodiversity, Science, and the Imagination

Necessities of Conservation · Biodiversity & the Imagination · Biodiversity Futures

Bringing together the sciences and literary arts onto common ground to debate ways of mitigating the current biodiversity crisis.

Featuring an environmental art exhibition as part of the Royal Society of Arts Respond arts and ecology month.

Due to climate change, human development and other factors, it has been estimated that up to 22% of all living species may become extinct this century. Before humanity can properly tackle this impending extinction crisis, we must first consider exactly what this loss means, and reconsider how and why we place values on the natural world - be these aesthetic, economic, historical, ethical or sacred. By inviting together distinguished scientists and literary thinkers, this exciting event sets out to examine, through presentations and panel discussions, some of the most pressing concerns to wildlife conservation: exactly what species we should conserve, how we perceive the concept of biodiversity, and the potential future challenges we face in sustaining biodiverse life.

Saturday 20th June 2009, 10am-6pm

@BASH studios, 65-71 Scrutton St, London EC2A 4PJ

Featuring discussions with:

Ruth Padel award-winning poet, author of Darwin - a Life in Poems

John Fa Director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Caspar Henderson award-winning environmental journalist

Armand Leroi BBC presenter, evolutionary development scientist

Melanie Challenger poet & former Writer in Residence for the British Antarctic Survey

For more information please contact or see here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book launch - The Darwin Poems

Emily Ballou will be launching her verse-portrait of Charles Darwin, The Darwin Poems, on Thursday 28th May, 6-7pm in The Meeting Room, Clare Hall, Herschel Road, Cambridge, with a reading and a wine reception. Further details of The Darwin Poems can be found on her blog here.

She will also be reading on July 15th at the Christs' College Old Library Garden Party, with a guided tour of Darwin's old rooms, recreated by John van Wyhe. This is a ticketed event - please contact Candace Guite at the old library if you'd like to attend (

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award - Poetry and Science: The Case of Humphry Davy

Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD award to study the manuscript and published poetry of the chemist Humphry Davy, 1778–1829. This collaborative award, to be supervised jointly by experts at the University of Salford and the Royal Institution of Great Britain (, will involve the student spending one year based at the Royal Institution in London, transcribing Davy’s poetry and participating in the institution’s public-facing

About the project:

In his 1817 poetry collection Sibylline Leaves, S. T. Coleridge wrote that Sir Humphry Davy was ‘a man who would have established himself in the first rank of England’s living poets, if the Genius of our country had not decreed that he should rather be the first in the first rank of its philosophers and scientific benefactors’. Today, few people know that Davy wrote poetry, though he continued to do so throughout his life and left at least fifty poems in manuscript form in his surviving notebooks and letters. One aim of this project is to consider for the first time in a full-length study Davy’s entire poetic oeuvre, assessing from a literary critical perspective its content and technical form. It is hoped that the examination of Davy’s literary and scientific writings will involve the reassessment of the term ‘Romantic’ as a cultural movement, throw new light on literary circles and social networks in this pre-disciplinary period, and consider how Davy’s scientific practice differed from that of his contemporaries both in Britain and abroad, looking in particular at ways in which his interest in poetry might account for these differences.

Studying at the University of Salford and the Royal Institution:

The successful student will be supervised by Professor Sharon Ruston (author of Shelley and Vitality) and Professor Brian Maidment at the University of Salford, and Professor Frank James (Head of Collections and Heritage, editor of The Correspondence of Michael Faraday) at the Royal Institution. The University of Salford has particular expertise in the interrelations between poetry and science, supported by the Literature, Science and Culture research cluster in the Centre for Literary Studies.

Award and Eligibility:

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award schemes include fees paid at home/EU rate and an enhanced stipend/maintenance award for three years. Home/EU students receive the AHRC maintenance stipend, which in 2008-2009 (full time registration) was £12,940. Additional maintenance equivalent to £1k per year is paid in in-kind benefits by the Royal Institution as the collaborating partner. The award would commence on 1st October 2009.

The successful student must have completed, or be in the process of completing a Masters course from a UK University, or recognised equivalent. The student should have strong academic credentials, including an MA or MSc in English, History, History of Science, or related area. Preference may be given to applicants with a declared interest in heritage studies. The successful candidate must also meet the eligibility criteria for the AHRC; the Guide to Student Eligibility can be found here.

How to apply:

Application forms can be downloaded here. Please use the section asking for your Research Proposal to demonstrate your interest in the topic and suitability for the award.

Applications and a current CV should be sent to Mary Byrne, Postgraduate Research Administrator, Research Institute for Social, Cultural and Policy Research, University of Salford, Salford, M5 4WT. Please write ‘AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship’ on your envelope.

Closing date: The closing date for applications is 26 June 2009.

Interviews for short-listed candidates are likely to be held in the week commencing 13 July 2009. The successful candidate will be required to complete the relevant part of the student nomination form for forwarding to the AHRC by 20 July 2008. Nominations are subject to final approval by the AHRC.

Further Information:

Enquiries should be made to Professor Sharon Ruston, or on 0161 295 5071.

The University of Salford and the Royal Institution of Great Britain are committed to an inclusive approach to promoting equality and diversity. We aim to have a more diverse workforce at all levels of the institution and welcome applications from people from minority ethnic backgrounds and people with disabilities.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

18th May

Our next seminar will see the group travel on a magic carpet to Mars, as we join Lieutenant Gullivar Jones on His Vacation. As usual, we meet from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College. All welcome!

Edwin Lester Arnold, Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905)

Online text available here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

CFP - Dickens Day: Dickens and Science

Saturday 10 October 2009, London

G. H. Lewes famously criticised Dickens's failure to engage with contemporary scientific thought and proffer psychologically convincing characters, describing them as 'frogs whose brains have been taken out for physiological purposes'. Recent work, however, has significantly challenged
the truism that Dickens was indifferent or even hostile towards the scientific discoveries and discourses of his age. Dubbed a member of 'the steam-whistle party' by Ruskin, he was volubly enthusiastic about technological and scientific advancements and discoveries, including steam-driven modes of transport and manufacture, industrialism, geology, evolutionary biology and the mutual relations of humanity and animal life. He also had interests in mesmerism, phrenology and physiology. From his enthusiastic article 'The Poetry of Science' (Examiner, 9 December 1848) to Little Dorrit's fictional locomotive Mr Pancks, who 'snorted and sniffed and puffed and blew, like a little labouring steam-engine' and the 'Megalosaurus' stalking the opening of Bleak House, Dickens's oeuvre contains multiple traces of contemporary scientific thought.

This one-day conference seeks to explore scientific and technological ideas and metaphors in Dickens's novels and journalism and to place his life, work and thought in the context of Victorian science. We invite proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspect of the theme and warmly encourage postgraduate students to apply.

Topics could include but are not limited to:

* Darwinian and Lamarckian evolutionary theories and metaphors
* Geology and palaeontology
* Hereditary transmission of behaviour and the biology of character
* Affect and emotion
* Inventors and new technologies
* Professionalisation and the emergence of science as a discipline
* Criminality, detection and forensics
* Physiognomy, phrenology and the science of the grotesque
* Mesmerism and spiritualism
* Psychology, cognition and mental illness
* Gender, sexuality and the science and politics of normalisation
* Energy and thermodynamics
* Vivisection
* Psychological (im)plausibility, melodramatic aesthetics and radical
* The 'dismal sciences': economics, political economy and Utilitarianism

Please send proposals (maximum 500 words), together with details of your institutional affiliation (if any) to Holly Furneaux and Ben Winyard, at and The deadline for paper proposals is 31 May 2009.

CFP - Thomas de Quincey, Manchester and Medicine, 1785-1859

A one-day conference to be held at the University of Salford on Friday 4th December 2009

It has been 150 years since Thomas de Quincey died on the 8th December 1859: conference papers are invited on any topic concerning his work, Manchester, or medicine, during the period of his lifetime (1785-1859). Plenary speaker Peter Kitson (author of Romantic Literature, Race, and Colonial Encounter, 2008) will speak on 'Mr De Quincey and Dr White: The Racial Politics of Manchester Medicine', and Grevel Lindop (author of The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey, 1981) will speak on 'Confessions and Case Histories: De Quincey and the Medical Sublime'. We are hoping to show an exhibition of de Quincey books from the University of Salford's archives to accompany the conference.

Please send abstracts of no more than 200 words to Sharon Ruston,, by 31st May 2009.

This conference is sponsored by BARS, the British Association for Romantic Studies.