The reading group on Pseudo/Sciences of the Long Nineteenth Century is a collaborative venture between Newcastle University and the Literary and Philosophical Society. The group is open to scholars, students and researchers as well as members of the public with an interest in nineteenth-century science, pseudoscience and literature. For each session we read a combination of primary and critical material which is introduced by an invited guest. Topics range from phrenology and mesmerism to hysteria and Freudian psychoanalysis, from transcendental fiction, pseudoscience in ghost stories to the impact of scientific discoveries on art and literature. The group welcomes expression of interest from people who would like to present readings at one of the sessions.

The 2014-2015 programme begins on Monday 13 October when Dr Stacy Gillis from Newcastle University School of English will be considering ‘Sexual Desire, Transcendence and the Edwardian Novel’. Readings will be posted on the website where you will also find more information about the group and forthcoming events.

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.

A One Day Interdisciplinary Conference at the University of Warwick.

With Keynote Addresses from Dr. Charlotte Sleigh and Dr. Kate Tunstall

Saturday 7th March 2015

There are around 800,000 species of insect. From the honey on our breakfast cereal, lice infesting our hair to cockroaches invading our homes: insects are, and always have been, implicated in our everyday lives. Insects were fashioned into jewellery, imprisoned in amber, eaten, dissected, collected, revered, reviled and fictionalised. From the sacred scarabs of Ancient Egypt, or the Renaissance dung-beetles used to symbolise Jesus Christ, to our modern systems of pest control, insect-human relations have been subject, and contributed, to the forces of human history. Our conference proposes to examine the pre-eminence of invertebrate life in the period 1700-1900, including literary, historical, linguistic and scientific perspectives. This subject offers a large scope for theoretical engagement, challenging conventional ways of thinking about human history and culture. In line with developments in the burgeoning field of animal studies and more generally in the environmental humanities, invertebrates have a lot to teach about some of the most burning questions facing scholarship today: what can these seemingly insignificant creatures tell us about man’s place in ‘nature’? What does it mean that the only species more successful than humans in colonising the planet are also those considered the most disgusting? This conference seeks to showcase the exciting research being carried out by scholars from diverse fields on the vast topic of insects and other invertebrate animals. It will be of relevance to, not just those working directly with invertebrates, but also to those carrying out projects that intersect, however briefly, with these concerns. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

- Invertebrates in literatures (insects as metaphors; as teaching tools)
- Insect ‘economy’ / insects and economy (e.g. in advertising)
- Natural History (taxonomic problems, collecting/collections, microscopy)
- Origins and spontaneous generation
- Disease (vectorism, book-worms, tooth-worms, death, medicine)
- Alternative foodsources, sustainability and eco-criticism
- Flea circuses, insects and performance
- Insect spaces (Uexkuell’s concept of Umwelt)
- The social lives of insects
- Insects as political criticisms

The organisers invite abstracts of 250 words for 20 minute papers. Abstracts, along with a short biography, should be sent to by 19th December 2014.

For further information please visit:

The ‘Exotic’ Body in 19th-century British Drama (Oxford, 25-26 September)

A full programme and registration details for this conference are now available. Click here to link to the conference page, and here for the booking site.

For further information contact Tiziana Morosetti.

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)

The call for papers for the interdisciplinary conference on AGEING: HISTORIES, MYTHOLOGIES, TABOOS at the University of Bergen in January 2015 closes on 1st September. To see the details, click below

Bergen Ageing conference cfp

The Poetics of Knowledge

University of Bern, 5-7 November 2015

One very common narrative about Victorian Britain is that it was an age of ground-breaking scientific discoveries: Charles Lyell significantly extended the age of our planet; Charles Darwin forced a rethinking of the origins and development of life; Michael Faraday and James Maxwell Clark paved the way for modern physics; Non-Euclidean Geometry changed the way mathematicians measured and formalized the world; Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace laid the foundation for computing. The list could be expanded at leisure, as scientists made and remade the various fields in which humans have tried to make sense of the natural world. Both the individual discoveries and the underlying myth of scientific progress they allegedly add up to have repeatedly been analysed in narratological terms; Misia Landau (1984), and more recently David Amigoni and James Elwick (2011) have identified the narrative premises common to most scientific accounts of the past. Historians of science, Landau argues, are keen to speak about discoveries and innovations in the form of a meaningful sequence of origin, development and purpose, a structure of beginning, middle and end reminiscent of conventional narratological definitions of the plot in a work of fiction. Others, like Gillian Beer in her seminal study Darwin’s Plots (2009), have pointed to the way in which scientists themselves clothe their discoveries in narrative garments and how the plots they develop are both influenced by narrative tradition and in turn find their way back into literary narratives.

With this conference we would like to explore an alternative perspective. Instead of concentrating on the narrative character of scientific discourse, we want to explore its poetic side. Our aim thereby is twofold. First, we want to look into the historical and philosophical reasons for the predisposition against non-narrative forms of scientific literature and investigate poetic structures and elements in earlier scientific as well as literary texts that run counter to this alleged predominance of narrative. Based on this, we want to explore nineteenth-century literary works which use scientific ideas and language in non-narrative, and in particular poetic, forms. Relevant questions in this context include, among others, whether there is a fundamental categorical difference between narrative and poetic explorations of science in literature, how the noticeable bias for the former reflects social, political, cultural and economic conditions of the time, and whether gender becomes a relevant factor in the choice of poetic or narrative form.

To explore these and other related questions, we invite contributions which address the following topics:

  • Literary Theory and Science: Narrative and poetic structures in scientific discourse and accounts of scientific discovery. A theoretical and analytical framework for the analysis of poetic texts dealing with scientific issues.
  • Poetic Knowledge vs. Narrative Knowledge: Epistemological implications of poetic and narrative frameworks of knowledge, cognitive preconditions and consequences.
  • Scientific Domains and Poetic Voices: Exemplary analyses of non-narrative works of literature engaging with the scientific discourse of the time.
  • A Muted Tradition?: Examples of poetic texts addressing scientific issues prior to the nineteenth century.
  • The Two Cultures: Accounts of the rivalling discourses of Science and the Humanities in the nineteenth century. Debates about their role in education and their respective cultural relevance.
  • Gendered Forms?: The role of gender in establishing different forms of scientific discourse and literary engagements with science.

Abstracts (300-500 words) of 20-minute papers should be sent to or by 1 March 2015. Please include your name, academic title, affiliation, e-mail address as well as a short biographical note (100 words, approx.). We welcome contributions by junior researchers. Finished papers will have to be submitted by 30 August 2015. Every presenter will be asked to provide a brief response (5-7 min) to one paper. There will be the possibility to organise child care if needed. Please get in touch with the organisers for more information if you would like to take advantage of this service.

Being Modern: Science and Culture in the early 20th century
Institute of Historical Research, London 22-24 April 2015

Engagement with science was commonly used as an emblem of “Being modern”, across culture in Britain and the western world in the years around the First World War. Today, historical studies of literature, art, design, lifestyle and consumption as well as of the human sciences are exploring intensively, but frequently separately, on that talk of “science”.

Historians of science are exploring the interpenetration of discourse in the public sphere and expert communities. This pioneering interdisciplinary conference is therefore planned to bring together people who do not normally meet in the same space. Scholars from a range of disciplines will come together to explore how the complex interpretations of science affected the re-creation of what it was to be modern.

Please see the website for more details:

Submissions for four types of presentation and discussion are sought:

  • disciplinary panels of three x15 minute papers and discussion
  • cross-disciplinary panels of three x15 minute papers and discussion
  • Focus on research presentations of 5 minutes plus two minute discussion each will provide opportunities particularly for graduate students
  • Poster sessions

Closing date 19 October 2014. Get in early – competition will be strong!

Submissions to:

Enquiries to:

Dr Robert Bud

Keeper of Science and Medicine

The Science Museum, London

The National Archives seeks proposals from university partners for collaborative doctoral studentships to start in October 2015.
The National Archives is a member of the Thames Consortium, supporting (in total across the Consortium) six new collaborative research studentships each year via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme. Students are jointly supervised by a member of staff and an academic based in the partner university. Applications for studentships starting in October 2015 are now open.
The National Archives is the official archive and publisher for the UK government, and for England and Wales.  We are the guardians of some of our most iconic national documents, dating back over 1,000 years. The National Archives’ collection of over 11 million historical government and public records is one of the largest in the world. From Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, our collection includes paper and parchment, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.  Our 21st-century role is to collect and secure the future of the government record, both digital and physical, to preserve it for generations to come, and to make it as accessible and available as possible.
We are interested in proposals for collaborative doctoral studentships on any aspect of our collections, but especially the following subjects and themes:
• the mechanics of the central government machine (13th-17th centuries) • land ownership, transfer and inheritance in the medieval and early modern periods • common law, politics and power in medieval and early modern England and Wales • early modern letter writing, literature and record keeping • developments in early modern science, technology, art and material culture • legacies of Empire • British foreign policy in the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries • transatlantic relations during the Cold War • popular radicalism in the 18th and 19th centuries • attitudes to vagrancy and poverty in the 19th century • surgeons at sea: Royal Navy medical officers’ journals • the social impact of the First World War
Heritage science
• sustainable stewardship: targeting wider collection management issues in order to provide solutions for sustainable stewardship of The National Archive’s collections and exploring the potential of modeling and technology to provide evidence for decision-making • managing material change: for example, understanding materials, degradation processes and the relationship of materials to their environments, to enable The National Archives to predict the long-term stability of its holdings
• challenges in identifying and managing sensitive historical digital records • challenges in identifying and linking individuals across multiple series of digital records • archival digital collections as historical big data: challenges in understanding, exploring and visualising large digital collections • challenges in documenting and managing the context, provenance and integrity of the historical digital record during digital transfer from creating bodies to archives
Please send enquiries relating to studentships to the Research Team
More information is available here:

Biennial London Chaucer Conference: Science, Magic and Technology

10-12 July 2015

Institute of English Studies, Senate House, London

Call for Papers

Papers are sought on all aspects of ‘Science, Magic and Technology’ in late medieval literature and culture and particularly within Chaucer studies. Approaches might include:

The presentation of scientific ideas in myth and poetry
Observation and naturalism in literature and art
Experiment and experience in science and literature
The occult sciences (astrology, magic, alchemy) and their relationship to literature
Technology as magic, magic as a technology
Scientific literatures and the literariness of science
Epistemology and taxonomy in late medieval writing
Technologies of writing, parchment making and codicology
Concepts of the material and immaterial worlds, the environment, astrology, astronomy and cosmology
Cartography; deep-sea and space exploration
The science of the senses, optics, sound or scent
The representation of medicine in literature or the literary modes of medical writing
Trade technologies in literature
Science, magic and technology in medievalism
Papers are welcomed on the work of Geoffrey Chaucer or, more broadly, on late medieval writing and culture.

Please send 250 word abstracts to Dr Isabel Davis; Birkbeck, University of London. by 1st September 2014.

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