Monday, September 29, 2014

Gillian Beer talk - Queen Mary, 16th October

Michaelmas Term 2014 - The Brain

This term features four sets of readings on cerebral themes from the past, present, and future. For full reading lists please see the links available from the beginning of October here or on the HPS seminars website; hard copies will also be made available in the Reading Group’s boxfile in the Whipple Library.

We return to Darwin College, the original home of the Reading Group, for meetings on Monday evenings from 7.30-9pm. All are very welcome to join us!

13th October – Phrenological Genres

3rd November – Cerebral Forms

17th November – Memory

1st December – Beyond the Brain

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

AHRC Science in Culture - new Innovation Awards announced

The AHRC has announced seven new Innovation Awards as part of their Science in Culture theme - lots of fascinating projects, and several of interest to Science and Literature scholars, including 'Metamorphoses: Gaming Art and Science with Ovid', and 'Poetry by Numbers, Then and Now: Metre, Mathematics, Machines and Manufacture'. Details here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

CFP - Biological Discourses

A two-day conference at the University of Cambridge, 10-11 April 2015

The decades around 1900 are a crucial period for the impact of biological thought on the intellectual cultures of the western world. The impulses of Darwinism were taken up by intellectuals, writers and artists from the 1860s onwards, and both Darwinian and anti-Darwinian currents of thinking exercised a powerful influence on the intellectual climate of the early decades of the twentieth century. It was a period that saw major developments in cell biology and the establishment of genetics as we know it, the movement of medical science and psychiatry beyond mechanistic conceptions of illness, and the emergence of psychoanalysis and sexology as new disciplines. "Biological Discourses", a student-led conference to be held in Cambridge on 10-11 April 2015, is part of a collaborative venture between the Cambridge Department of German & Dutch and the Institute for Modern Languages Research, London, investigating the interplay and the forms of mediation between literary and biological discourses in that period.

The conference builds on the substantial body of research literature that has evolved in the last few decades both in English and other languages on the 'hermeneutic potential' of Darwin's thought (Gillian Beer) and the interrelationship between biological thought and literature and the visual arts more broadly. Recent work has also brought out the senses in which the historical emergence of such biological terminology as 'heredity' and 'genealogy' should be seen as part of European cultural history (e.g. Sigrid Weigel, Genea-Logik (2006); Staffan Müller-Wille and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, A Cultural History of Heredity (2012)). Key issues relating to these and other strands of inquiry were reviewed at an initial workshop hosted by the collaboration partners in London in March 2014 (see here).

The conference in April 2015 is intended to provide an opportunity to explore certain of those issues more closely, homing in particularly on the processes and potentials of mediation between biological science and literature, and to extend the inquiry to countries beyond the German-speaking world. The themes on which the organisers particularly wish to invite contributions are these:

  • What kinds of relationship do we see between the discourses of  biological science and literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Are there senses in which we find them sharing models, metaphors, and elements of each other's discourse?
  • How are developments in biological and medical thinking reflected in the print media of the time, both verbally and visually?
  • How are the emerging discourses of sexology and psychopathology reflected in the literary writing of this period, and what insights arise from comparisons between writings of the early 20th century and the critical perspectives of the present day (e.g. gender theory)?
  • How do the developments in biological thinking inform the world-views and ethical values of western societies in the period, and what evidence of this do we find in literary and other writings?
  • To what extent do we find the discourse of German writings on biological issues taken up and developed in other European languages, and with what implications?

Proposals (no more than 500 words please) should be sent to by 30 November 2014.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

CFP - Two BSLS events

British Society for Literature and Science - Symposium on Teaching
University of Westminster, Regent Street, London – 8th November, 2014


Literature and Science is currently gaining popularity amongst undergraduates, but opportunities for discussing how – and why – to teach it remain thin on the ground. This one-day symposium, led by the British Society for Literature and Science with support from Westminster’s Centre for the Study of Science and Imagination, is designed to help further that discussion.

We are keen to hear from as many different perspectives as possible, and therefore invite contributions from anyone with experience as a teacher, postgraduate teaching assistant, student, or administrator of an undergraduate course on (or containing elements of) Literature and Science, broadly defined.
For this event, we have adopted a different format from the standard academic twenty-minute conference paper, and will ask speakers to present in a more informal tone and for different lengths of time depending on the session. These shorter, less formal presentations will minimise preparation time for speakers as well as increasing discussion time for all participants.

With this low-preparation, discursive format in mind, we warmly solicit expressions of interest (not more than 200 words, including a brief biography and details of experience with Literature and Science teaching) from potential speakers. These should be sent to Dr. Will Tattersdill ( not later than October 10th 2014. Subjects we are anxious to discuss include, but are not limited to:
  • Why Literature and Science is worth teaching to undergraduates (and why it might not be)
  • Reflections on how, if at all, Literature and Science needs to be taught differently from other undergraduate programmes.
  • Particular difficulties encountered in convening a Literature and Science course, be they conceptual, administrative, logistical, or pedagogical.
  • Experiences collaborating with academic staff from other disciplines, including the sciences.
  • Student reactions to Literature and Science material, positive and negative.
We are committed to inviting contributions from those teaching literature and science across all historical periods, working across international educational contexts as well as within the British higher education system. There will be invited speakers as well as this open call, and current undergraduates will hopefully be among the delegates.

Many of us teach literature and science on our own initiative, coping individually with both the joys and challenges raised by the endeavour. This is an important chance to consolidate those experiences and build strategies – and collegial networks – which will continue to drive the field forward at its grass roots: undergraduate teaching.

Cian Duffy (St. Mary’s)
Allyson Purcell-Davis (St. Mary’s)
Janine Rogers (Mt. Allison)
Will Tattersdill (Birmingham)
Martin Willis (Westminster)

British Society for Literature and Science - Annual Conference 2015


The tenth annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science will take place at the University of Liverpool, on 16-18 April 2015. Keynote talks will be given by Professor Keith Barnham (Imperial College London), Dr Patricia Fara (University of Cambridge), and Dr Claire Preston (Queen Mary University of London).

The BSLS invites proposals for twenty-minute papers, or panels of three papers, on any subjects within the field of literature and science. In addition, ‘flash talks’ of up to 7 minutes on any topic are invited for a special plenary session. Other formats are also welcomed, but please email your suggestion to the organisers (via for consideration, well in advance of the submission deadline.

This year the organisers would particularly welcome proposals addressing the themes of light, optics, vision and colour, and proposals for papers, panels or roundtables on engaging the public with literature and science research. However, the BSLS remains committed to supporting and showcasing work on all aspects of literature – including comparative literature and European and world literatures – and science, medicine and technology.

Proposals of no more than 250 words, together with the name and institutional affiliation of the speaker, and a biographical note of around 50 words, should be sent in the body of messages (not in attachments) to Proposals for panels should include a separate proposal and biographical note for each paper. The closing date for submissions is Friday 5 December 2014.

The conference fee will be waived for two graduate students in exchange for written reports on the conference, to be published in the BSLS Newsletter. If you are interested in being selected for one of these awards, please mention this when sending in your proposal. To qualify you will need to be registered for a postgraduate degree at the time of the conference.

Accommodation: please note that those attending the conference will need to make their own arrangements for accommodation. Information on local hotels will be made available soon on the forthcoming conference website.

Membership: conference delegates will need to register as members of the BSLS (annual membership: £25 waged/ £10 unwaged). It will be possible to join the BSLS when registering for the conference online.
For further information and updates about the conference, please contact Greg Lynall ( A conference website will be available in due course.