Thursday, April 30, 2015

A dramatic experiment: science on stage

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm on Monday 11 May 2015

at The Royal Society, 6 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1

A Royal Shakespeare Company event, in partnership with the Royal Society

Why does the story of a scientist, or topic of science itself, make for a
compelling theatrical production?

Join us for an evening uncovering science-inspired theatre.

Our panel will discuss why science stories continue to attract and intrigue
writers and directors, and the claim that such plays oversimplify
scientific theory in the pursuit of an accessible and dramatic narrative.

Hear from Tom Morton-Smith, writer of the critically acclaimed RSC
production Oppenheimer, Professor John D. Barrow FRS, a cosmologist and
playwright, Dr Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, a scholar of science in the theatre,
and Professor Marcus du Sautoy OBE, broadcaster, writer and science

Chaired by Erica Whyman OBE, Deputy Artistic Director at the Royal
Shakespeare Company.

Tickets for this event can be purchased from the Royal Shakespeare Company

A limited number of tickets may also be available for purchase on the door

Doors open at 6pm

Details here.

UPDATE (20/5/15): Read an article by Kirsten about these issues here; and apparently video from the event is also available here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

BSLS/JLS Essay Prize 2015

The British Society for Literature and Science and the Journal of Literature and Science would like to announce our annual prize for the best new essay by an early career scholar on a topic within the field of literature and science. The deadline for this year's prize will be 19th June, in order to give members time to revise papers presented at the BSLS conference should they wish to.

Essays should be currently unpublished and not under consideration by another journal. They should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words long, inclusive of references, and should be send by email to both John Holmes, Chair of the BSLS (, and Martin Willis, Editor of JLS (, by 12 noon on Friday, 19th June, 2015.

The prize is open to BSLS members who are postgraduate students or have completed a doctorate within three calendar years of the deadline date. The Prize committee will consider on a case by case basis whether to accept submissions from anyone whose doctorate was completed more than three years prior to the deadline but whose career has been interrupted during that time (due to illness, maternity leave, etc.). Those who have submitted to the essay prize in previous years are very welcome to submit again. This includes any previous prize winners or honourable mentions.

To join BSLS (only £10 for postgraduates and unwaged members), go to
The prize will be judged jointly by representatives of the BSLS and JLS. The winning essay will be announced on the BSLS website and published in JLS. The winner will also receive a prize of £100. The judges reserve the right not to award the prize should no essay of a high enough standard be submitted.
The winning essays to date have been Rachel Crossland’s ‘”Multitudinous and Minute”: Early Twentieth-Century Scientific, Literary and Psychological Representations of the Mass’, published in JLS, 6.2 (2013), and Emilie Taylor-Brown's ‘(Re)constructing the Knights of Science: Parasitologists and their Literary Imaginations’, published in JLS, 7.2 (2014). Josie Gill’s essay, ‘Science and Fiction in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth’ received an honourable mention from the judges and was published in JLS, 6.2 (2013). To read these essays, visit

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Talk - 'Darwin and Mechnikov in Tolstoy's Literary Imagination'

Thursday 23 April 2015 at 5:00pm in the Beves Room, King's College
Coffee and refreshments available from 4:45pm

Talk Abstract

Leo Tolstoy was a notorious critic of science as it was practiced in the late nineteenth century. At the same time, he was heavily influenced by newly appearing scientific theories. This talk explores Tolstoy's response to two of the most noted scientists of his day: the zoologist, Charles Darwin, and the pathologist, Ilya Mechnikov. Tolstoy frequently criticized both men in his diaries, letters, and essays, but their ideas helped shape his fictional works. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy used his two main characters to represent an acceptance and a rejection of Darwinian theory and, in so doing, highlighted the dangers of regarding it as scientific law. In his final novel, Resurrection, rather than making the characters' fates provide a judgment on scientific theory as he did in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy coopted Mechnikov's phagocytic theory for his own ends, making it the metaphoric basis for his moral philosophy. This offered him a way of synthesizing science and religion through art.

About the speaker

Anna A. Berman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at McGill University (Montreal, Canada). Her primary area of research is the family in the nineteenth-century novel, with a focus on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. She is interested in literary depictions of siblinghood, kinship, and forms of love that provide an alternative to the standard romantic love/marriage plot. Her book, Siblings in Tolstoy: The Path to Universal Brotherhood, will be published this fall by Northwestern University Press. Recently, she has begun to research the links between nineteenth-century conceptions of the family and the scientific theories of Charles Darwin and Ilya Mechnikov. Berman also studies Russian opera, with a particular interest in adaptations of literary texts.

Easter Term 2015

This term we will not be holding a formal series of seminars, but instead focus on more social events in Cambridge's scientific spaces and places. We will visit several local sites (including the Sedgwick Museum, Botanic Gardens and Institute of Astronomy), for readings and discussion of appropriate related texts.
For further details as and when they become available, please watch out for updates on this blog, or email Melanie to join our mailing list.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Call for suggestions - novels, politics and technology

Georgina Voss has a post on the Guardian website today asking for suggestions of 'the best fiction books with something to say about the politics of science and technology'. Read it (and contribute) here.