A one-day international and cross-disciplinary conference exploring the intersections of the work of J.G. Ballard and the sciences.

25 November 2017
LAB 109, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Key Note Speaker: Christopher Priest

Hosted by the Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy (CSFF)

"Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute." J.G. Ballard

From The Drowned World’s early meditations on ecology, to the provocative prosthetics of Crash, through to the psychopathologies at work (or rather play) in Cocaine NightsSuper-Cannes and Kingdom Come, the writings of J.G. Ballard are in constant dialogue with the discourses of science and technology. As a result, his novels and short stories function as vast indexes of scientific innovation and enquiry, immersing the reader in the complex yet often beautiful languages of biology, chemistry, zoology, medicine, botany, neuroscience, bioethics, anatomy, biotechnology and psychology, to name just a few.

Papers are invited on all aspects of the intersections between J.G. Ballard and science. Proposals are welcomed from researchers at all stages of their career, including postgraduate students, independent scholars and creative writers.

Please send proposals or abstracts of up to 300 words along with a short biography to Jeannette Baxter by 31 August 2017.

The Journal of Literature and Science http://www.literatureandscience.org is once again looking for reviewers to review various articles in the field of literature and science published in the last year to 18 months.

Please find below a number of articles that we would like to offer for review in the Journal. The list is by no means definitive; there’s such a lot of fascinating work out there, so please do let me know if there’s an article not on the list that you’d like to review.

It’s largely first come, first served, so do get in touch with an offer to do a specific article m.geric@westminster.ac.uk

Reviews should be 750 words long. For more details please follow the link: http://www.literatureandscience.org or contact Michelle m.geric@westminster.ac.uk to register your interest.



K. Kelly, “‘Experience has not yet learned her letters’: Narrative and Information in the Works of Francis Bacon.” Configurations24.2 (2016): 145-171.

L. Johnson, “‘Life Beyond Life’: Reading Milton’sAreopagiticathrough Enlightenment Vitalism.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 49.3 (2016): 353-370.

Rachel Trubowitz, “Reading Milton and Newton in the Radical Reformation: Poetry, Mathematics, and Religion.” ELH 84. 1 (2017): 33-62.

Paul Gilmore, “Charles Brockden Brown’s Romance and the Limits of Science and History.” ELH 84. 1 (2017): 117-142.

S. Thomasen and H. K. Sørensen, “The Irony of Romantic Mathematics: Bridging the Historiographies of Literature and Mathematics.”Configurations24.1 (2016): 53-70.

Sari Altschuler, “From Empathy to Epistemology: Robert Montgomery Bird and the Future of the Medical Humanities.” American Literary History 28. 1 (2016): 1-26.

Gowan Dawson, “Dickens, Dinosaurs, and Design.” Victorian Literature and Culture 44. 4 (2016): 761-778.

Franziska E. Kohlt, “‘The Stupidest Tea-Party in All My Life’: Lewis Carroll and Victorian Psychiatric Practice.” Journal of Victorian Culture 21. 2 (2016): 147-167.

Jim Endersby, “Deceived by Orchids: Sex, Science, Fiction and Darwin.” The British Journal for the History of Science 49 (2016): 205-229.

Eleanor Dobson, “Gods and Ghost-Light: Ancient Egypt, Electricity, and X-Rays”. Victorian Literature and Culture 45.1 (2017): 119-35.

Clare Stainthorp, “Activity and Passivity: Class and Gender in the Case of the Artificial Hand.” Victorian Literature and Culture 45. 1 (2017): 1-16.

Wilhelm, “The Utopian Evolutionary Aestheticism of W. K. Clifford, Walter Pater, and Mathilde Blind.”Victorian Studies 59. 1 (2016): 9-34.

Tyson Stolte, “‘The Infinite within the Finite’: Victorian Prosody and Orthodox Theories of Mind.” Victorian Poetry 54. 3 (2016): 245-274.

L. Lieberman & R. R. Kline, “Dream of an Unfettered Electrical Future: Nikola Tesla, the Electrical Utopian Novel, and an Alternative American Sociotechnical Imagery.” Configurations 25. 1 (2017): 1-27.

Cassandra Laity, “Eco-Geologies of Queer Desire: Elizabeth Bishop’s Love Poetry and Charles Darwin’s Beagle Geology Travel Narratives.” Contemporary Women's Writing 10. 3 (2016): 429-450.

Jeffery Blevins, “Absolutism, Relativism, Atomism: The ‘small theories’ of T.S. Eliot.”  Journal of Modern Literature 40. 2 (2016): 94-111.

Caracheo, “The Measurement of Time: Mann and Einstein’s Thought Experiments.” Configurations 25. 1 (2017): 29-55.

Heather A. Love, “Cybernetics Modernism and the Feedback Loop: Ezra Pound’s Poetics of Transmission.” Modernism/Modernity 23. 1 (2016): 89-111.

Cedric Van Dijck, “Time on the Pulse: Affective Encounters with the Wristwatch in the Literature of Modernism and the First World War.” Modernist Cultures 11. 2 (2016): 161-178.

Kirsty Martin, “Modernism and the Medicalization of Sunlight: D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, and the Sun Cure.” Modernism/modernity 23. 2 (2016): 423-441.

Michael Allan, “Re-Reading the Arab Darwin: The Lewis Affair and Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace of Desire.” Modernism/modernity 23. 2 (2016): 319-340.

Joseph Darlington, “A Non-Euclidean Novel: Christine Brooke-Rose’s Such and the Space-Age Sixties.” Journal of Modern Literature 40. 2 (2016): 147-164.

Christopher D. Kilgore, “Bad Networks: From Virus to Cancer in Post-Cyberpunk Narrative.” Journal of Modern Literature 40. 2 (2016): 165-183.

Though Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Georg Simmel are generally regarded as the “founders” of sociology as a discipline, sociological theory was actually rooted in nineteenth-century culture as intellectuals and scientists attempted to make sense of the political, economic, and social dislocations brought about by the Industrial and French Revolutions. Auguste Comte (who coined the term “la sociologie” in 1838), John Stuart Mill, Harriet Martineau, George Henry Lewes, Karl Marx, Henry Mayhew, Herbert Spencer, and Charles Booth were among the primary exponents of “the scientific study of society” during the Victorian era; significantly, their work often responded to or was informed by myriad literary authors and forms.


This volume represents the first collection of essays to illuminate the historically and intellectually complex relationship between literary studies and sociology in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. As Samuel Kerkham Ratcliffe noted in a December 1909 paper read before London’s Sociological Society, “Sociology and the English Novel,” the “difficulty is not to discover sociology in fiction, but to find anything therein that is without sociological value and meaning.” This point has been more recently amplified by Wolf Lepenies, in Between Literature and Science: The Rise of Sociology, and Krishna Kumar, in “Sociology and the Englishness of English Social Theory,” who both have sought to account for Britain’s relatively slow professionalization of sociology before 1950 by citing the fact that “for the English their poets, novelists, and literary critics seemed to be doing a more than adequate job of analysis and criticism of the novel problems of nineteenth-century industrial society” (Kumar 55). With these observations in mind, we invite essays that will help to address some key questions.  How, precisely, did Victorian and Edwardian literary texts did help to develop and formalize the discipline of sociology? How did emergent sociological discourses and practices shape the literature of the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century?  To what degree were literature and sociology offering competing systems for analyzing the society they purported to represent?


We welcome papers that consider the sociological provenance of specific Victorian and Edwardian cultural objects and practices or papers that explore how various social theories and theorists were inherently tethered to or inspired by the literary. We especially encourage submissions that explore problems in and of the social through the “contact zones”  of literary studies and sociology. Essays might examine one or more specific examples of “the scientific study of society” and consider the degree to which these proto-sociological texts are themselves amenable to rhetorical, ideological, formal, historical or other permutations of “literary” analysis.  Contributors might discuss how specific literary works represent persons, institutions, or methods of thought associated with sociological theory and practice, and/or whether such literary works contributed to an emergent sociological discourse (or discourses). We also invite papers that explore how nineteenth- and early-twentieth century literary texts contributed to the expansion of sociology as a discipline and/or anticipated the later theoretical interventions of Erving Goffman, Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, etc.  In addition, sociological accounts of the role of literature in the formation of national identities, classes, or class fractions in Victorian or Edwardian England would be welcome.  This list is meant to be suggestive rather than exhaustive.


We are currently soliciting proposals (300-500 words, plus one-page CV) for essays of roughly 6000-8000 words. Proposals should be sent to apionke@ua.edu by or before December 15, 2017.


Maria K. Bachman, Professor and Chair

Department of English

Middle Tennessee State University


Albert D. Pionke, Professor

Department of English

University of Alabama

BSLS members will remember Professor Sharon Ruston’s excellent plenary lecture on Davy at our 2016 conference in Birmingham.  Sharon’s new 4-week MOOC, Humphry Davy: Laughing Gas, Literature, and the Lamp, starts on 30 October.  The course draws on her research as co-editor of Davy’s Collected Letters and her work on Romantic-era literature and science, and is free.  For more information and to register interest, see https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/humphry-davy

Reviews that have appeared on the British Society for Literature and Science website in July 2017


A list of books for which we are currently seeking reviewers can be found here.

Please email Gavin Budge on <G.Budge@herts.ac.uk> if you would like to propose a book for review  - anything published from 2015 onwards will be considered.

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Following the success of the JLS/BSLS essay prize in previous years, The JLS and the British Society for Literature and Science would like to announce the 2017 prize for the best new essay by an early career scholar on a topic within the field of literature and science.

Essays should be currently unpublished and not under consideration by another journal. They should be approx. 8,000 words long, inclusive of references, and should be send by email to both Josie Gill, Communications Officer of the BSLS (josie.gill@bristol.ac.uk), and Martin Willis, Editor of the JLS (willism8@cardiff.ac.uk), by 12 noon on Friday, 11th August, 2017

The prize is open to BSLS members who are postgraduate students or have completed a doctorate within three years of this date.

(To join BSLS, go to http://www.bsls.ac.uk/join-us/).

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 the JLS. The winner will also receive a prize of £100.

Read previous prize winning essays in the JLS: www.literatureandscience.org


Configurations, the journal of SLSA (The Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts) is seeking submissions for a special issue on Science Studies and the Blue Humanities, edited by Stacy Alaimo. We are interested in essays, position papers, provocations, and artist statements that explore the significance of science studies for the development of the blue humanities. As oceans and bodies of fresh water increasingly become sites for environmentally-oriented arts and humanities scholarship, how can the emerging blue humanities best engage with the theories, questions, paradigms, and methods of science studies? How do questions of scale, temporality, materiality, and mediation emerge in aquatic zones and modes? How can literature, art, data visualization, and digital media best respond to the rapidly developing sciences of ocean acidification and climate change as well as the less publicized concerns such as the effect of military sonar on cetaceans? Work on postcolonial/decolonial science studies, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), indigenous sciences, and citizen science especially welcome. Please submit 5,000-7,000 word essays; 3,000 word position papers or provocations; or 2,000 word artist statements (with one or two illustrations or a link to a digital work); to Stacy Alaimo, alaimo@uta.edu, by February 1, 2018, for consideration. All essays will be peer-reviewed, following the standard editorial procedures of Configurations.

Ordering knowledge, from Bacon to the Shelleys

International conference

16-17 March 2018

University of Strasbourg

Organised by Pôle Grand-EST-SEAA XVII-XVIII (Société d’Etudes Anglo-Américaines du XVIIe et XVIIe siècles) in collaboration with IDEA (Interdisiciplinarité dans les Etudes Anglophones, Univ. de Lorraine) and SEARCH (Savoirs dans l’Espace Anglophone : Représentations, Culture, Histoire, Univ. de Strasbourg).

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Laurence Talairach-Vielmas (Centre Alexandre Koyré, University of Toulouse)

Sorana Corneanu (University of Bucharest)

Organising committee:

Anne Bandry-Scubbi (Université de Strasbourg)

Jean-Jacques Chardin (Université de Strasbourg)

Richard Somerset (Université de Lorraine)

Proposals of around 300 words should be sent by Monday 2 October to chardin@unistra.fr and richard.somerset@univ-lorraine.fr

In his 1667 tract publicizing and promoting the newly-created Royal Society, Thomas Sprat argued that while the Baconian experimental methods championed by the Society’s members imposed upon them “a close, naked, natural way of speaking” and “a constant Resolution, to reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style,” the austerity of this linguistic recommendation would not imply a distancing of philosophical and literary cultures. Beyond the stylistic debate around the desirability or not of ornamentation in language, the experimental method would benefit poetry by improving the justness of perceptions: it was thus expected that knowledge of “the Works of Nature” would prove “one of the best and most fruitful Soils for the growth of Wit.” For Sprat, the weak natural knowledge of the Ancients had produced a literature of limited imaginative scope; but the resources in imagery of the more fortunate Moderns were about to be replenished by “the charitable assistance [of] Experiments.” The images thus derived from observation were natural not conventional since “they proceed from things that enter into all men’s Senses” and which are therefore “nearest to their Nature.” The perceiver who ignores empirical method and relies only on immediate sense impressions is condemned to see with the eyes of convention and therefore to fail to perceive nature truly, or to discern its true beauties.

In his ‘A Defence of Poetry’ written just over a hundred and fifty years later, Percy Bysshe Shelley also insisted on the convergent pathways of science and poetry; only for him it was the poet who was to be in the driving seat. To thinkers influenced by German Idealism at the end of the eighteenth century, the experimentalists’ attempts to side-line the perceiving mind in the knowledge-building process could only result in distorted understanding. It was in fact the combination of perceptive acumen guided by richness of insight that was best apt to “defeat the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions.” Poetry and science alike, when pursued by such minds, enable us to see beyond familiar appearances and to become “the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos.” Each “creates anew the universe, after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration.” For Shelley and the Romantics generally, failure to accept the operative function of the agent will leave us the slaves of the appearances, and incapable of perceiving – far less understanding – the living spark at the heart of nature that is simultaneously the true object of enquiry for the natural philosopher, and the ultimate subject of expression for the poet.

At the one extreme, then, stands the apologist for the new science holding out to men of letters the promise that philosophical and cultural renewal go hand in hand, with the former promising to nourish the latter; at the other extreme, a similar gesture is made in the opposite direction, inviting the natural philosopher to revive and correct his inadequate conceptions by drinking at the fountain of poetic insight. But however opposed their prescriptions, Sprat and Shelley shared the assumption that ‘knowledge’ and ‘culture’ can and should cooperate. Any attempt definitively to separate them would destroy both.

The current institutional norm that places science and literature in non-communicating disciplinary spaces is thus a recent development. Emerging in the late nineteenth century, it was less the result of epistemological divergence than of the politics of institutionalisation and specialisation. The implications for the historian are far-reaching. It does not suffice merely to notice the difference of prior epistemological arrangements in order to understand their operation; we need to attempt to think through the appropriate prisms. Thus, rather than anachronistically seeking interactions between ‘Literature’ and ‘Science,’ it may be more fruitful to treat the ‘knowledge’ of the period in holistic terms: a complex whole requiring the input of an ever-broader range of specialists but also the policing or structuring input of political, social and cultural authorities capable of bestowing status and value.

Following this orientation, the conference aims to re-examine the norms and modes of knowledge-production in the period after the introduction of ‘scientific method’ but before the definitive fragmentation of the sciences and the humanities into distinct disciplinary fields. It seeks to relate those norms to broader political, institutional and epistemological considerations, and by so doing to sketch out the contours of the period’s continued aspiration to a holistic knowledge economy. A fuller sense of this persistence is essential to the present-day historian’s attempts to retrieve the cultures of the past in their full complexity, and to the aptitude of academics in general to situate their own practices in a broader disciplinary history.

Potential themes for conference papers include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Taxonomies of knowledge and their representation; changing taxonomical order
  • Early phases in the emergence of ‘intermediary’ disciplines, notably the ‘historical sciences’ (geology, palaeontology, anthropology) and the ‘scientific humanities’ (philology, antiquarianism/archaeology). The place of ‘civil history’ in this spectrum
  • Institutional framing of disciplinary practices; their interactions
  • Modes of exchange and dissemination of culture and knowledge; networks of influence
  • The emergence of disciplines and the emergence of national identity
  • Ancient learning versus modern method: polemics, debates and satire
  • The ‘man of letters’ and the ‘man of science’ as citizens of the ‘republic of letters’
  • Women in the knowledge economy
  • Cross-fertilisation of generic codes
  • Disciplines, education and social status
  • University curricula; dissenting academies

Case studies of representative figures, working across a range of disciplinary specialisms

Reviews that have appeared on the British Society for Literature and Science website in June 2017


A list of books for which we are currently seeking reviewers can be found here.

Please email Gavin Budge on <G.Budge@herts.ac.uk> if you would like to propose a book for review  - anything published from 2014 onwards will be considered.

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Thanks to Wellcome Trust funding, Martina Zimmermann's new monograph The Poetics and Politics of Alzheimer's Disease Life-Writing is fully available through open access. To download the book for free from the publisher's website, click here.

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