Friday, February 26, 2010

38 Plays: 38 Days


Starting on the 1st of March, we intend to read each of Shakespeare’s 38 plays in 38 days*.
We would love your company. You are warmly invited to join us in this reading challenge.
Even if you don’t have time for quite so much reading, feel free to invent your own Shakespeare challenge. Your moral support, Shakespeare knowledge or idle thoughts would be invaluable.
* Plus a bonus day for Edward III.


1 March – 7 April 2010
8 April 2010 is a bonus day reserved for Edward III


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I’ve always wanted to read all of Shakespeare’s plays. Somehow, I’ve managed to get through my life so far without having done so. Starting on the 1st of March, I intend to rectify this sorry state of affairs.
After participating in NaNoWriMo and ScriptFrenzy in 2009, I realised two things. First, I enjoy wild, crazy, nigh-impossible challenges. Second, working toward a goal alongside other people is a great source of motivation.
We’re not going for great scholarly insight or serious, critical readings. The point of this madcap adventure is to have fun and get through a first reading of the plays.

If you feel inclined to join us in reading an awful lot of Shakespeare awfully quickly, we’d love your company!

Contact Ingrid Jendrzejewski for more information.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

CFP - Poetries and sciences in the 21st century

Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (
This is to invite proposals for contributions to a themed issue of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews on the topic of "Poetries and sciences in the 21st Century", to be published as volume 37, number 2, June 2012.

Reference here to the present century is meant to imply that the relationship between poetry and science is historically contingent and that our current views of it are informed and challenged by those of the past. The intended aim of this issue, then, is not so much to say or even to sketch what we believe to be true as to question our views by considering where they come from, both in the present and in the past, and to speculate on what is to be done.

As a point of departure, consider the literary critic I. A. Richards' Poetries and Sciences, a work whose writing and revisions span the middle half of the 20th Century. In his book, which bears the marks of considerable struggle and disagreement, Richards asked what poetry could be in a world deeply and broadly
affected by technoscience. The revolution it has brought about, he argued, is "too drastic to be met by any such half-measures" as promotion of wonder in the marvels of nature (1970: 52-3). What could wonder be but an attitude of ignorance when these marvels have or are assumed to have lawlike explanation? Science has neutralized nature, he argued, and so deprived poetry of its original well-spring, "the Magical View of the world" (1970: 50). What could a poet say to those for whom making sense ultimately requires the radically plain style of scientific reasoning? His solution was to cut the language of imagination free from the language of belief, hence from epistemological certainty, implying our philosophical freedom to explore possible worlds.

Consider also the psychologist Jerome Bruner's essay "Possible Castles", in his Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (1986). Here Bruner argues that philosophical questioning of science (by Thomas Kuhn et al.) has reawakened the ancient, even tired question of the "two cultures" by revealing science itself to be historically contingent. In response to this reawakening he gives us two opposed trajectories for the sciences and the humanities. Both originate in curiosity and speculation about the world, but the one moves steadily away from ambiguity while the other moves toward increasing "the alternativeness of human possibility" (Bruner 1986: 53). He concludes his essay by quoting Aristotle on the poet's function: "to describe not the thing that has happened, but a kind of thing that might happen" (Poetics II.9). What matters to the poet, Bruner says, is verisimilitude to conceivable human experience. The poet's job, we might say, is to expand what is conceivable by finding the right words, whereas the scientist's is to extend what is explicable by equally
audacious but differently directed acts of imagination.

Much closer to our time, enter into the debate physicist Robert B. Laughlin's declaration that as much in physics as in biology we have come out of the reductionism which defined science throughout the 20th Century (2005: 208) - and so created Richards' dilemma - into an Age of Emergence. If so, then the question to be rescued from the muddle of "two cultures" is truly vigorous and contemporary. Let us say that, to quote theoretical biologist Robert Rosen, we foreswear the crippling mental habit "of looking only downward toward subsystems, and never upward and outward" (2000: 2), which renders us unable to see emergent organizational principles, of poetry or of life itself. What then might poetry and science have to do with each other? What might that preeminent expression of technoscience, computing, have to say about poetry, and how might it go about the saying? How might our most adventurous theories of poetic discourse inform a computing that works "upward and outward" from its object of study?

Practical matters
All contributions will be peer-reviewed. Articles may contain black-and-white illustrations (for which authors should seek any necessary permissions). Articles should have a maximum length of 6000 words. For details about format see

July 2011: declare intention to contribute (title & abstract)

September 2011: submit first version

January 2012: reviewers' comments & decision returned to authors

March 2012: final version due to the publisher

June 2012: issue published as ISR 37.2

Please address all enquiries to the Editor.

Willard McCarty, Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

BSLS small grants 2010

Applications are invited for BSLS small grants of up to £150 to advance and/or promote the study of literature and science. Examples of things for which the awards might be used are conferences, panels on literature and science, expenses for visiting speakers, seminar series and debates.

 Applicants should be members of BSLS and should apply by making a case, in up to 300 words, for how the award will contribute to the development of literature and science; a brief costing should be appended to the end of the application.

 The application should be e-mailed, as a Word attachment, to the BSLS Treasurer ( by 22 March 2010. Applications will be considered by the BSLS Executive Committee and a total of up to £300 will be awarded; no correspondence will be entered into about the decisions of the Committee.
International members of BSLS are welcome to apply for the awards, but should note that they will be distributed in the form of bank cheques made out in pounds sterling. Serving members of the BSLS Executive Committee are not eligible to apply for the awards

Postgraduate Studentships - Translating Cultures: Literature, Music and the Arts in a World Context

The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Aberdeen is offering funding for postgraduate students interested in pursuing research on the topic of ‘Translating Cultures: Literature, Music and the Arts in a World Context ’, a four-year interdisciplinary project that sets out to explore how the arts matter in an age of globalization. Through a series of case studies that take up the theme of ‘translating cultures’ from a variety of perspectives and with regard to different geopolitical constellations, this project seeks to illuminate the ways in which the arts play a significant role in contemporary societies. We invite applications from students from a wide range of humanities and social science disciplines, including those interested in pursuing practice-based PhDs in Music, and Film and Visual Culture. Candidates interested in joining the project who do not yet have a masters degree, can apply for funding to take one of our research preparation masters: the MLitt in Comparative Literature or the MLitt in Visual Culture .

This project draws on existing research strengths at the University of Aberdeen, such as Francophone studies, which has been singled out by successive RAE sub-panels as truly distinctive and ground-breaking. ‘Translating Cultures’ forges links between this research focus and strengths in other areas, such as Latin American Studies, Visual Culture, Cultural Sociology and Electroacoustic Music.

The supervisory team is drawn from a number of disciplines, including Anthropology, Film and Visual Culture, French, German, Hispanic Studies, History, History of Art, Music, Museum Studies and Sociology. Possible research titles and topics may include the following:

- Minor Cinema and Art;
- The Politics of Landscape (Film and Photography);
- Investigating Art as Thought in the Literature, Film and Music of the Haitian, Antillean and West African traditions;
- Writing (in) the Museum: Constructing Knowledge Through Text;
- The Role of the Art Institute in Oil Cities;
- The City as a Space of Experiment;
- The Laboratory as a Creative and Critical Site in Contemporary Art;
- Cinema and the Construction of the Critical Spectator;
- Performing Self and Community;
- Spaces for Creation / Spaces for Performance: A Study in Electroacoustic Music;
- Thinking the Archive;
- Developing a New Concept of the Working-Class Aesthetic.

For further information, see

Seminar - Late Darwin: extinction, aesthetics, and the human

Dame Gillian Beer, Clare Hall

*History and Economics Seminar*
** Wednesday 24 February at 5pm **

The seminar meets in the Bridgetower Room, Trinity Hall, Trinity Lane

Book Launch - It's Just the Beating of My Heart

Richard Aronowitz's eagerly awaited second novel is published by Flambard in March. An art dealer with a fading reputation, John Stack finds solace in alcohol-fuelled walks through a Gloucestershire valley. His wife has left him, taking their daughter Bryony with her, and John finds himself increasingly drawn towards a beautiful and enigmatic neighbour. Told in sparkling poetic language, It’s Just the Beating of My Heart is a story of loss, heartbreak and hope by the author of the acclaimed Five Amber Beads.

A launch event for It’s Just the Beating of My Heart will take place at the Fulham Road branch of Daunt Books (158-164 Fulham Road, London SW10 9PR) on Thursday, 4th March 2010 from 6.30 to 8.30pm. There will be drinks and snacks, as well as a reading from the novel.

CFP - Reweaving the Rainbow: Literature and Philosophy 1850-1910

University of Exeter, 10th - 11th September 2010
Confirmed keynote speaker: Prof. Michael Wood (Princeton)
Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine --
Unweave a rainbow...
(Keats, Lamia, 229-237)
John Keats' famous indictment illustrates the historically ambivalent encounter between literature and 'cold' philosophy. In the decades that followed, this relationship was to enter a new phase, as each field sought to redefine itself to befit the emerging conditions of modernity. Yet even as the endeavour to explore philosophical issues and the influence of philosophical discourses burgeoned in novels, poetry and essays, the separate institutionalisation of philosophy and English literature in universities from the early 1890s pulled these most intimately related 'disciplines' apart.

This interdisciplinary two-day conference will explore the vicissitudes of influence, appropriation, interaction and disciplinarity in 'English literature' and 'philosophy'. It will address the ways in which literature is philosophical and philosophy is literary, and how their interactions evolved in the course of this period. We are seeking to raise a range of issues including, but not limited to:

* How novels and poetry exploit the philosophical potentialities of literary form, including the treatment and expansion of philosophical issues such as ethics and epistemology in literary works (eg. Henry James' empiricism, Wilde's aphorisms)

* The influence of philosophers on literary writers (eg. Feuerbach and Eliot, Ancient Greek philosophy and Arnold, Nietzsche and Vernon Lee)

* Intellectual and literary culture in Britain (eg. the Classics in Oxford, the British Hegelians, the rise of Positivism, the persistence of Romantic philosophies)

* The philosophy of literature and the arts (eg. Ruskin, George Moore, Arthur Symons)

* The way that science influenced philosophical discourses in essays, novels and poetry (eg. evolution and ethics, Hardy and social Darwinism)

The deadline for submission of abstracts is 2nd April 2010. Please send an abstract of around 300 words and a brief biography to Dr. Kate Hext and EII Research Fellow Alice Barnaby at no later than this date. Questions and comments are also welcome!

Friday, February 19, 2010

CFP - 'Half Dust, Half Deity; or, Science, Nature, & the Supernatural in the Long Eighteenth Century

24th – 25th April, 2010, English Faculty, Cambridge
Call for papers here. Further information at the website here.
Deadline 19th March 2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

1st March

For the last meeting of this term we'll conclude our exploration of alchemy and chemistry with Tony Harrison's 1992 play Square Rounds. This is available in the West Room and Reading Room of the University Library, or in the English Faculty library, or from second-hand book websites. We meet, as usual, in room G03 of the Mary Allan Building at Homerton College, Cambridge, from 7.30-9pm. All welcome!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Next term

An advance announcement that next term we shall be reading fairy-tales of science: a selection of texts from the long nineteenth century that combined new science and technologies with the myths and stories of old.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

15th February

For our third meeting of term we continue our readings on alchemy and chemistry with selections from Primo Levi and Oliver Sacks (details below). A photocopy of the readings is available in the Whipple Library boxfile. We meet as usual from 7.30-9pm in room G03 of the Mary Allan Building, Homerton College. All welcome!

Primo Levi, L'altrui mestiere (1985).  Translated by Raymond Rosenthal as Other People's Trades.  Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1989. This is a collection of short essays, which originally appeared in the Turin newspaper La Stampa.  We will look at "The Mark of the Chemist" (pp. 86-90), "The Language of Chemists (I)" (pp. 100-105), "The Language of Chemists (II)" (pp. 106-110), "Ex-Chemist" (pp. 174-176)

Two chapters from Oliver Sacks' memoir, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (2001). Reprinted by Picador, London, 2002. Chapter 7, "Chemical Recreations" (pp. 67-76) Chapter 8, "Stinks and Bangs" (pp. 77-90)