Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Opera - Kepler's Trial


Friday 28 October: 8:15pm - 9:45pm
Saturday 29 October: 8:15pm - 9:45pm

St John's College Chapel, St John's Street, CB2 1TP

Johannes Kepler's mother Katharina might well have remained entirely in the shadows had she not, in the summer of 1615, been accused by a neighbour of being a witch. The case dragged on for six years, eventually leading to a trial, in which the famous astronomer, putting his life on hold, took over his mother's defence. Drawing on Ulinka Rublack's recent book, 'The Astronomer and the Witch', Kepler's Trial tells this story. It is the culmination of a highly unusual creative process, in which a team of scholars working in a wide range of different fields from several different institutions met regularly to explore the story, and to consider the challenges posed by bringing it to the stage. The opera seeks to illuminate the story through the combination of allusions to the music of the early seventeenth century (cornetts and sackbuts, chorales, Lutheran drinking songs) with video sequences by Aura Satz that amplify its themes of darkness and light, moon and sun, sight and illusion, with, at its centre, the depiction of the aging woman.

For further information about the background, design and production of the opera, please see The production has been made possible with funds from St John's College, the Faculty of History and the Faculty of Music.

To book go to

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Michaelmas Term 2016 - Fire

This term the Science and Literature Reading Group is on fire. Our four themed sessions will explore flames elemental and personal, spiritual and experimental, spontaneous and accidental. As usual, we will read a diverse range of sources, including ancient philosophy, comic poetry, diary entries, experimental reports, and serialised fiction. This term an additional optional piece of scholarship/commentary has also been suggested on each reading list.

Meetings take place on Monday evenings at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm. The group is organised by Melanie Keene and Charissa Varma. For recaps, further readings, news, and other updates, watch this space!

All are welcome to join in our wide-ranging and friendly discussions!

17th October – Cosmic Fire

Optional further reading: ‘Heraclitus’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, particularly section 4, ‘Cosmology’.

31st October – Spiritual Fire

Optional further reading: Richard Noakes, ‘The “bridge which is between physical and psychical research”: William Fletcher Barrett, Sensitive Flames, and Spiritualism’, History of Science xlii (2004), 419-464.

14th November – Bodily Fire

Optional further reading: J.L.Heilbron, ‘The Affair of the Countess Görlitz’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 138 (1994), 284-316.

28th November – Fighting Fire

Optional further reading: Robert M. Hazen and Margaret Hindle Hazen, Keepers of the Flame: The role of fire in American culture, 1775-1925 (1992), chapter 4, 'Fighting Back'.

If you have difficulties accessing any of the readings then please email Melanie for pdf copies!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Article - The Rhetoric of Quantum Mechanics

Fascinating article by Kanta Dihal on her PhD research online here: lots of references to Science and Literature Reading Group favourites!

PhD Studentship - Performing science in the 19th century

Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Westminster
Three years, full time
£16,000 annual stipend plus fee waiver for three years amounting to £5,000 per year

Material across the University Archive attests to the importance of visual and performance culture in the role of both the Royal Polytechnic Institution (RPI) and the Regent Street Polytechnic (RSP) in bringing scientific knowledge to the general public. The institutions staged, among other events, lectures, slide shows, performances of experiments and exhibitions.

Projects suggested by the archive’s collection on the relation between science and performance might focus on:
  • programmes of events at the RPI and RSP
  • the interaction between science and other kinds of public spectacle – such as magic lantern slides and performance culture generally
  • the use of the cinema at the RSP from the late 19th century
  • the Polytechnic Review and Magazine, which give details of lectures and events held by the RPI and in the wider scientific community
  • the Polytechnic Magazine of the RSP

The criteria for selection will be as follows:
  • Standard University entry criteria.
  • The studentship is open to both home/EU and overseas applicants, although the fee waiver will remain at £5,000 so the difference will need to be made up by overseas students themselves.
  • Preferably the studentship will go to an excellent proposal from a University of Westminster alumnus.
  • The successful proposed project will show evidence of intellectual excellence, of crossing and challenging disciplinary boundaries, and of making excellent use of the archive.
  • The successful candidate will demonstrate commitment to the doctoral research community of the Faculty and the University and to disseminating the significance of the archive both internally and externally.

If you have any questions on the project, please contact Dr Leigh Wilson at

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 23 September 2016.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

CFP - The Literature of the Anthropocene

Special issue of C21 Literature

The concept of the Anthropocene, deemed by Bruno Latour “the best alternative we have to usher us out of the notion of modernization”, blurs the distinction between human and geological history (Dipesh Chakrabarty). It speaks, too, to contemporary fiction’s concern with the place of humans on the planet, the ways in which they shape - and are shaped by - the natural and technological environments through which they move, and the broader relation between the early twenty-first century moment and ‘deep’ time.

Although the value of the Anthropocene as an official geological epoch is still being considered by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the term is already widely in use to denote the era in which human beings have become a major geological force with significant socio-political implications. Indeed, “In the Anthropocene, social, cultural and political orders are woven into and co-evolve with techno-natural orders of specific matter and energy flow metabolism at a global level, requiring new concepts and methods in the humanities” (Clive Hamilton, François Gemenne, Christophe Bonneuil).

Taking up Hamilton, Gemenne, and Bonneuil’s conceptual and methodological invitation, this special issue of C21 asks: how does literature respond to this new geological era? Are there specific forms, genres, and techniques which are more appropriate than others to represent the temporal and spatial enormity of the era? And how is criticism addressing the Anthropocene?

Possible topics for articles include, but are not limited to:

  • Representations of the Anthropocene in fiction, drama, poetry, and non-fiction;
  • Anthropogenic apocalyptic narratives, utopias, and dystopias;
  • Genre, form, and the Anthropocene;
  • Time, temporality, and history in anthropogenic narratives;
  • Space and nature in anthropogenic narratives;
  • The Anthropocene and literary criticism (e.g. ecocriticism, Marxism, trauma theory);
  • Postcolonial literature, diasporas, and the Anthropocene;
  • The representation of race, gender, and class in the Anthropocene;
  • The Anthropocene and capital;
  • Posthumanism, humanism, and the Anthropocene;
  • Literature, science studies, and the Anthropocene.
Please send abstracts (500 words max) to Dr Diletta De Cristofaro ( by 31st October 2016. Final articles of 6,000-7,000 words will be due by 28th February 2017.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

CFP - Mediating Climate Change

University of Leeds
Tuesday 4th – Thursday 6th July 2017

Confirmed speakers: Professor Wändi Bruine de Bruin (Leeds); Professor Nigel Clark (Lancaster); Professor Alexandra Harris (Liverpool); Professor Mike Hulme (King's College London); Dr Adeline Johns-Putra (Surrey); Professor Gillen D'Arcy Wood (Illinois)

Our experience of climate change is always mediated. Its effects are encountered through changing weather patterns, including the storms, floods, and droughts that afflict communities across the world. They are also encountered through different forms of representation: a novel imagining a desiccated future Earth; a television documentary about coral bleaching; a graph of rising global temperatures. Researchers increasingly understand climate change as a cultural and political issue, and are concerned with the ways in which it is mediated in different contexts, and to different audiences.

This major environmental humanities conference will cross disciplines and periods to analyse the ways in which human beings have tried to make sense of climate change. What difficulties are there in representing climate change? How has it been debated in the past? What new ways of exploring and mediating climate change are emerging as we face an uncertain future?

We welcome proposals of around 250 words for twenty-minute papers suitable for an interdisciplinary audience. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Representations of climate change in literature, film, the media, and the arts
  • Climate change and cultural theory (e.g. posthumanism, new materialism)
  • Historical constructions of climate change
  • Climate change and the Anthropocene
  • The mediation of climate science
  • Scales of mediation/climate modelling
  • Climate change as a culturally mediated and contingent concept
  • The construction of climate change within academic discourse
  • Climate change and 'the natural'
  • The psychology of climate change (e.g. disavowal, denial, scepticism, affirmation, optimism)
  • Climate change in political discourse
  • Climate change and the ethics of representation
  • Mediation and climate change activism

We also welcome proposals for complete panels and for presentations/panels using non-standard formats. The deadline for proposals is 15 January 2017. Please use the conference email address for all correspondence and proposals:

Conference organisers: David Higgins and Tess Somervell

Conference advisory team: Jeremy Davies, Dehlia Hannah, Graham Huggan, Sebastien Nobert, Lucy Rowland, Stefan Skrimshire, Kerri Woods

This conference is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through a Leadership Fellowship awarded to Dr Higgins. For further details, see

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Free event - Ways of Knowing the Polar Regions: Past, present and future

The Arctic and Antarctic have long claimed a strong hold on the western imagination, but climate change has given these regions new prominence and meaning.

Why have these places held such a strong attraction for western explorers and storytellers? Has Polar science been well represented in climate change coverage in professional journalism and social media? What have we learned from controversies, whether about natural science, or the interests of the people and places most affected by change? How much do we know about future scenarios for these sensitive regions, and how should we tell those stories today in a way that might change the future for the better? Is the future the next frontier for explorers and storytellers?

This free public event will explore these themes with contributions from climate modeller Tamsin Edwards (Open University), oceanographer Mark Brandon (Open University), Cambridge Polar Museum curator Charlotte Connelly, poet Nick Drake (author of Arctic-themed poem cycle 'The Farewell Glacier') and writer Tony White (Science Museum writer in residence and author of the Science Museum published climate change novel Shackleton's Man Goes South). Broadcaster and writer Dallas Campbell (presenter of BBC's Bang Goes the Theory and City in the Sky) will introduce and chair the event. It is co-organised by the University of Cambridge Polar Museum and The Mediating Change Group, which is based jointly at the Open University Geography Department and the University of Sheffield School of Architecture

Date: Thursday 15th September
Further details and booking: here