The next seminar in the UCL Science and Literature Seminar Series will be given by Prof David Amigoni of Keele University on ‘Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and the Biographical Laboratory’.

Date, time and place: Tuesday, 2nd December, 5.30-7.30pm. G24 Foster Court, UCL – all welcome.

Abstract: This talk will explore Francis Galton’s use of biography; it will account for his use of biographical dictionaries as the basis for his early work in eugenics, including his own attempts to institute a so-called ‘Golden Book of Thriving Families’ as foundational work for early British sociology. The talk will critically explore the way in which the Galton Laboratory, under the direction of Karl Pearson, developed biographically-informed genealogies of leading intellectual families, such as the Darwins, the Galtons themselves, and newly fashioned intellectual aristocratic dynasty of the Batesons — William Bateson being one of the early British ‘fathers’ of the new science of Mendelian genetics. To raise the question of intellectual paternity is to explore Galton’s legacy in the debate between biological and cultural models of intellectual inheritance — a debate in which Pearson’s astonishing ‘labour’ of filial loyalty, ‘The Life and Letters of Francis Galton’  (1914-1930) was itself implicated.

Biography: David Amigoni is Professor of Victorian Literature at Keele University; he has published widely on Victorian writing, including on Samuel Butler, and is author of Colonies, Cults and Evolution (Cambridge 2007). He is presently working on a book about the place of life writing in the familial and intellectual interconnections between the Darwins, the Huxleys and the Batesons as a way of critically interrogating competing models of inheritance and the literature-science relationship.

Michael Whitworth, Chair of the BSLS from 2009 to 2012, has recently given a talk on Poetry and Science in the 1920s and 1930s at the Oxford Literature and Science seminar. To watch Michael’s talk on video, click here.

One day free symposium organised by the Postgraduate Contemporary
Women’s Writing Network with kind support from The British Society for
Literature and Science.

When engaging new audiences in contemporary women’s writing, an
increasing awareness of the importance of interdisciplinary methods has
served to draw attention to the ways in which literary expertise can be
used to engage with science and the field of medicine. Women writers in
particular exploit the use of literature as a vehicle for promoting
social responsibility and awareness, especially when it comes to
concerns surrounding recent developments in the fields of science and

The symposium seeks to examine the relationship between biomedical
science and the maternal body as represented in the works of
contemporary women writers. The pregnant body has always been a site for
much debate, particularly when placed in dialogue with feminist issues
of autonomy and subjectivity. When considered alongside biomedical
science, these debates are further complicated by women’s ambivalent
attitudes towards both the freedoms and the constrictions that modern
scientific developments bring. In exploring the relationship between
women and nature, biology, science and technology, contemporary women
writers go some way towards addressing the questions raised by such

In considering these and other questions, we welcome papers that address
this fascinating area of development within contemporary women’s
writing. Topics may include (but are by no means limited to):

• Pregnancy, subjectivity and autonomy
• Contemporary conceptions of motherhood
• Women’s relationship with their own biology
• Choice, control and power
• Binarisms regarding ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’
• Maternal embracing or rejection of scientific interventions
• Reproductive technologies and roles within reproduction

Additionally, we are delighted to confirm Professor Clare Hanson as the
keynote speaker for the event. Her research interests lie in the
relationship between medicine and culture, with a particular emphasis on
theoretical and fictional responses to new reproductive technologies and
the cultural implications of modern genetic science.

Please submit a 200-word abstract for 15-minute papers, along with a
brief biographical note to by 15th January, 2015.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us via this
email address or through Twitter (@PGCWWN) and Facebook.

We are also delighted to be able to offer one £50 bursary to cover the
travel costs for attending the event. In order to qualify for this
bursary, the speaker must produce a review of the event (by 7th March)
for publication on the PG CWWN blog. Please state in your email if you
are interested in applying for this opportunity, and why you think you
should be selected.

Joanne Ella Parsons
PhD Candidate
Bath Spa University

Social Media and Website Officer
Feminist and Women’s Studies Association

Twitter: @joparsons

NAVSA Annual Conference 2015
Honolulu, Hawaii
July 9-12, 2015
Deadline: November 21, 2014

“Ecology, System, Empire”

Organizers: Nathan Hensley (Georgetown) and Philip Steer (Massey)

The cataclysmic fact of global warming has brought to the fore notions of interconnection, supraindividual agency, and transhuman timescales, challenging scholarship to ask how systems, ecological networks, and even entire worlds might be conceived within a single frame. In Victorian Studies this presents itself as a problem of critical scale—what are the temporal and geographic boundaries of “the Victorian”?—and aesthetic form: how to represent an ecosystem, where no single phenomenon can be abstracted from a system of mutual dependence? The weblike networks of George Eliot’s realism are just one of the Victorian era’s many models for conceiving mutual imbrication at global scale: political economy, print culture, natural science, and early geology are others. But as trope and material fact, the Empire was arguably the most powerful site of ecological interconnection in the nineteenth century, as well as the engine of unprecedented environmental devastation.

These two linked panels aim to coordinate the notions of “empire” and “ecology” to explore how Victorian writers employed literary form to engage with the conceptual novelty of massively networked systems. Drawing on the tradition of postcolonial thinking about “worldedness” (Said) and on more recent work in environmental humanities on “slow violence” (Nixon), we conceive the key intervention of these panels to be the linking of often depoliticized models of ecology and environment to the Empire’s worldmaking project. We anticipate these papers to be united by a shared sense that Victorian literary forms were central to apprehending and theorizing the conflicted intersection of colonizer, native, and environment.

The first panel will use the category of “Form” to triangulate these dilemmas of environmental and political ecology with distinct zones of imperial activity; it explores (1) the capacity of Victorian forms to conceptualize colonial ecosystems, and (2) the formal strains produced at those peripheral locations. The second panel, on “Scale,” will (1) foreground processes of maximalization or zooming-out required to see interconnected systems in their full sphere of operation, while also (2) asking how smaller samples—synecdoche, example, lyric poem—might stand somehow to evoke the systems in which they participate. Collectively, these panels aim to chart the history of narrative ecologies in the Victorian imperial century; in doing so, they make a broader claim for the capacity of form to operate as a mechanism of thought, in this case indexing the fact of human-made catastrophe on global scale, imperial violence both fast and slow.

Please submit a 250-word abstract and a one-page CV by November 21, to the panel chairs, Nathan K. Hensley and Philip Steer: and

Decisions will be made within one week of this deadline, allowing time for papers not accepted for the panels to be resubmitted as individual papers by the conference deadline of December 1.

The world famous astronomer David H. Levy will be giving a talk on ‘Poetry of the Night: Reading the Sky in English Poetry’ at the University of Sussex on 12th November 2014 from 17.00-18.30. The event is open and all are welcome. To read more about it, click on the link below:

David H. Levy on astronomy and poetry



Reviews needed for Literature and Science Special Issue of the Oxonian Review

The Oxonian Review is looking for short reviews (1000-2,000 words) of recently published work or essays (also 1000-2,000 words) on new developments in the field for our special issue on Literature and Science, which will be published on 8 December 2014. If you are interested in writing a review, please e-mail the Editor-in-Chief, Laura Ludtke ( The Oxonian Review can easily request a review copy of the book for you. 



University of Exeter, 20-21 July 2015

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Professor Stuart Murray, University of Leeds

Dr Roberta Bivins, University of Warwick

Building on the success of last year’s Postgraduate Medical Humanities Conference, this conference aims to bring together researchers from a variety of disciplines in a manner that reflects the broad scope of exciting research being carried out in the field of the medical humanities at present. We therefore welcome abstracts on any aspect of the medical humanities from postgraduates working in all disciplines, including but not restricted to English Literature, History, Film, Classics, and Art History. We also strongly encourage proposals from students training in a medical discipline (including trainee doctors, carers, psychiatrists, and other practitioners) who are interested in the medical humanities.

While this call is open to papers on all topics within the wide medical humanities remit, we would specifically like proposals on themes of contemporary importance within the field, such as the development of medicine and/or the medical humanities in India and China; representations of medicine in graphic novels; and ageing.

The conference will provide a forum for postgraduate scholars to exchange ideas and share their research in a friendly and engaging environment. The event will also allow delegates to discuss their work with senior academics in the field, including keynote speakers and other members of the Exeter Centre for Medical History.

The event will close with a roundtable discussion, featuring our keynote speakers and other esteemed members of the Centre for Medical History. This session will draw together the themes arising from the conference and reflect on future directions of research in the medical humanities.

There will also be a workshop led by Ryan Sweet and Betsy Lewis-Holmes (co-organisers of the forthcoming event Exewhirr) on public engagement.

We invite applicants to submit abstracts of up to 300 words (for 20-minute previously unpublished papers) to by Friday 19 December 2014 with “PGMH 2015 Conference Abstract” written in the subject line of the email. We also welcome panel and workshop proposals. Such proposals should include 300-word abstracts for up to four speakers in addition to a 500-word overview that explains the aims and rationale for the session.

We hope to be able to offer a small number of travel bursaries, which will be announced closer to the event.

Being Non/Human is organising a conference for 2015 on the topic of ‘bodily borders’. Being Non/Human is an interdisciplinary group that engages with research on interactions between the human and nonhuman, providing a forum for graduate students and early career researchers to present current research. They invite any postgraduate or early career researcher interested in this theme to submit an abstract or propose a panel. For more information, and to read the call for papers, click below:

Being Non Human call for papers

A ‘museum late’ at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford: this event will showcase the dynamic world of citizen science.

Through short talks, quizzes and interactive sessions, visitors can discover how members of the public participate in science today, how they have done so in the past, and how citizen science is changing the humanities.

BBC New Generation Thinker Dr Will Abberley will discuss how, for Victorian scientists, people’s experiences with their pets were more than mere anecdotes. The ‘Unbelievable Truth of Medical History’ stall will mount forays into history, while representatives from the Zooniverse team (the world’s largest citizen science organisation) will show how in the twenty-first century, harnessing public interest in everything from galaxies to the ancient Greeks is transforming both the humanities and science.

See here for more.

University College London is launching a new series of Science and Literature talks this term with the following talk:

Tuesday, 4th November, 5.30-7.30 pm

Reading and Reception Seminar – Science and Literature Series

G24, Foster Court, University College London,

Malet Place, WC1

Prof Sally Shuttleworth (Oxford)

‘Animal instinct and whispering machines: Science in the Victorian periodical’

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