Winter Symposium – The Politics of Literature and Science

BSLS members are invited to send in proposals to host the third BSLS one-day symposium in November 2016.

At the AGM, the BSLS membership voted again to support, in addition to the annual conference, a one-day symposium in November 2016 on the theme of the politics of literature and science. A budget of £500 will be made available to members to fund the symposium.

The second Winter Symposium was held last year on the subject of archives, at the University of Reading. Details of this, along with the first symposium on teaching, can still be found on the BSLS website.

Proposals should include:

*   a statement of up to 500 words setting out the rationale for the event and how it interprets the over-arching theme

*   contact details for the organiser(s)

*   the venue(s) and date of the symposium

*   a provisional programme including provisional or confirmed speakers and panels

*   a clear budget explaining how the grant will be spent.

A small registration fee may be set for the symposium if required; if it is, this should be justified in the proposal. The BSLS will be named as the official sponsor of the event, but it will not take on further financial liability beyond the grant itself.

Applicants must be members of the BSLS both when the application is made and when the symposium is held. International members of the BSLS are welcome to apply for the awards. Applications should be emailed as a Word document to the Chair of the BSLS, Martin Willis (, and copied to the Secretary Greg Lynall ( by Monday 8th August 2016. Applications will be considered by the BSLS Executive Committee. The award will be made to the application which the Committee judges as best fulfilling the overall aims of the BSLS and serving its members and the academic community as a whole. Successful applicants will be informed as soon as possible after the deadline.

Queries about the symposium in the first instance are encouraged and should be directed to Martin Willis.

No correspondence will be entered into about the decisions of the Committee. Serving members of the BSLS Executive Committee are not eligible to apply for the grant. They may be included in the proposal for the symposium as participants, but they may not receive any of the award money either as costs or fees.

Creating Romanticism

Case Studies in the Literature, Science and Medicine of the 1790s 

Sharon Ruston 

Paperback edition out June 2016 


Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and the Cultures of Print Paperback


Jun 2016

£19.50 $34.99



May 2013

£58.00 $95.00

264 pp

216 mm x 138 mm



  1. Mary Wollstonecraft and Nature
  2. William Godwin and the Imagination
  3. Romantic Creation
  4. Humphry Davy and the Sublime
  5. Conclusion Bibliography

About the book 

This book argues that the term 'Romanticism' should be more culturally-inclusive, recognizing the importance of scientific and medical ideas that helped shape some of the key concepts of the period, such as natural rights, the creative imagination and the sublime. The book discusses a range of authors including Joanna Baillie, Edmund Burke, Erasmus Darwin, William Godwin, Joseph Priestly, Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft. Chapters look at these figures from a new perspective, using their journal articles, diaries, manuscript notebooks and poetry, as well as unpublished letters. Humphry Davy is given particular attention and his poetry and chemistry are explored as central to Romantic efforts in both poetry and science.

Sharon Ruston is Chair in Romanticism at Lancaster University, UK. She has published Shelley and Vitality (2005), Romanticism: An Introduction (2007), and has edited The Influence and Anxiety of the British Romantics: Spectres of Romanticism (1999), Literature and Science (2008) and co-edited Teaching Romanticism (2010).

"...a fascinating and thoroughly convincing call to re-examine not just "Romanticism and Science" but "Romanticism" itself. If Ruston is correct about the deliberate use of scientific and medical ideas in some of the period's foundational literary texts - and I have every confidence that she is - then Creating Romanticism should find an audience well beyond those of us interested in the science of the day and become required reading for all students of the period."

— James Robert Allard, Keats-Shelley Journal 

"...offers a lively, de-centred view of British Romanticism, considered from the multiple vantage points provided by the complex structure of its intellectual and social networks".

— Noah Heringman, The Keats-Shelley Review 

'Ruston's book offers a valuable addition to the long history of research into science in the Romantic era: its strength resides particularly in its grasp of the political sub-texts of the interpretation of scientific ideas in the period, as well as in the accounts of little-discussed texts, and in the importance it rightly accords to Davy.'

— Edward Larrissy, The BARS Review 

The deadline for the 2016 prize for the best new essay by an early career scholar on a topic within the field of literature and science approaches fast - Friday 17th June. Additional submissions in the time before the deadline are very much encouraged.

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 Josie Gill, Communications Officer of the BSLS (, and Martin Willis, Editor of the JLS(, by 12 noon on Friday, 17th June, 2016

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

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.

The winning essay for 2015 was Maria Avxentevskaya’s ‘The Spiritual Optics of Narrative: John Wilkins’s popularization of Copernicanism’ which was published in issue 8.2 of the JLS in December 2015. Read this and other prize winning essays in issues 7.2 and 6.2 at

(The judges reserve the right not to award the prize should no essay of a high enough standard be submitted.)

Reviews that have appeared on the British Society for Literature and Science website in May 2016

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

Please email Gavin Budge on <> if you would like to propose a book for review  - anything published from 2010 onwards will be considered.

This is a list of books that are currently in the process of being reviewed.

A list of books that have already been reviewed on the British Society for Literature and Science website can be found here.

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The annual conference for 2017 will be held at Bristol University from 6th-8th April next year. Rosalind Powell will be leading the Bristol team. As usual, a call for papers will go out in the Autumn, with a deadline in early December. Decisions on accepted papers and panels will be announced in January. There will also be the opportunity for postgraduate bursaries.

Please save the dates!


Clifton Hill House, University of Bristol, Friday 20th January 2017.

‘It’s a kind of literary archaeology: on the basis of some information and a little bit of guesswork you journey to a site to see what remains were left behind and to reconstruct the world that these remains imply’. Toni Morrison is not the only writer to have imagined her work as a kind of archaeological digging, as an imaginative excavation of the past and a reconstruction of past lives from remains. From Wordsworth’s call to ‘grieve not, rather find / strength in what remains’ to Heaney’s bog poetry, writers have interrogated the significance of the earth, the buried, remains and fragments, and drawn upon techniques and tools associated with archaeology as a means of thinking about history, memory and the body. Conversely, archaeologists have begun to examine the potential influence of literature on their approaches to material traces and human remains. In the introduction to their 2015 book Subject and Narrative in Archaeology, Ruth M. Van Dyke and Reinhard Bernbeck note that there is an ‘increasing clamour for and interest in alternative forms of archaeological narratives, involving writing fiction, making films, constructing hypertexts, and creating media that transcend the traditional limitations of expository prose’ and that ‘Visual art, fiction, creative nonfiction, film, and drama have much to offer archaeological interpretation and analysis’. Literary critical approaches are also being recognised as useful ways of thinking about archaeological processes: for archaeologist John Hines, there is an ‘affinity between the scholarly disciplines’, archaeology involving ‘the same exercises of interpretation, analysis and evaluation as literary criticism.’

This conference brings together archaeologists, literary scholars and creative writers to explore similarities and points of convergence between literature, literary studies and archaeology across historical periods. We invite papers which adopt a range of disciplinary or interdisciplinary approaches to the relationship between archaeology and literature and/or the potential for methodological exchange between the disciplines. We are particularly interested in exploring synergies between archaeological science and literature, and how the human body as a site of archaeological knowledge might shape and be shaped by literary and critical approaches to the body.

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Literary and cultural representations of archaeology
  • Fragments, remains and reconstruction in archaeology and literary studies
  • Theoretical uses of archaeology in the work of Benjamin, Freud, Foucault
  • Human remains, bodies, bones and skeletons in literature
  • The influence of archaeological writing on literary studies
  • Representations of archaeology in the media
  • Metaphor, analogy and storytelling in archaeology
  • The relationship between memory, history and narrative
  • Race and gender in archaeology


Confirmed keynote speakers include:

Dr. Robert Witcher, Durham University

Dr. Jerome de Groot, University of Manchester

Dr. Nadia Davids, Queen Mary University of London


This conference is supported by the AHRC and is being held as part of the AHRC-funded project ‘Literary Archaeology’: Exploring the Lived Environment of the Slave

Attendance at the conference is free and there is a limited fund for reimbursement of UK travel expenses. We are also pleased to offer a postgraduate bursary which will cover all expenses of the successful applicant.

There will be an opportunity to publish conference papers in a journal special issue following the conference.

Please send 250 word abstracts to by 16th September 2016. Delegates will be notified of the outcome in mid-October.

Science meets poetry is exclusive to EuroScience Open Forum and now celebrates its tenth year. The year 2016 is one of important anniversaries: 400th since the death of Shakespeare and Cervantès, 500th since the publication of More’s Utopia. Manchester, as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, looms large in the poetry of our times. Wordsworth who fled pollution to the Lake District can be cast as a forerunner of the ecologist-poets. Chemistry was vital for addicts such as Thomas de Quincey. Today, we even have poetry inspired by graphene. British poets and scientists have never been ignorant of science, as exemplified by Humphry Davy, who kept a laboratory notebook also containing his verse. We have evidence that Shakespeare knew about Tycho Brahe, his contemporary. Did his knowledge extend to the controversy between Tycho and Johannes Kepler surrounding the heliocentric theory? And what were his views on astrology?

View the whole schedule here.

Reviews that have appeared on the British Society for Literature and Science website in April 2016

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

Please email Gavin Budge on <> if you would like to propose a book for review  - anything published from 2010 onwards will be considered.

This is a list of books that are currently in the process of being reviewed.

A list of books that have already been reviewed on the British Society for Literature and Science website can be found here.


Registration is now open for this FREE interdisciplinary conference.

'The Body and Pseudoscience in the Long Nineteenth Century' Conference

18 June 2016, Newcastle University

'Sciences we now retrospectively regard as heterodox or marginal cannot be considered unambiguously to have held that status at a time when no clear orthodoxy existed that could confer that status upon them' (Alison Winter, 1997). The nineteenth century witnessed the drive to consolidate discrete scientific disciplines, many of which were concerned with the body. Attempts were made to clarify the boundaries between the 'scientific' and the 'pseudoscientific', between 'insiders' and 'outsiders'. This conference asks what became lost in separating the orthodox from the heterodox. What happened to the systems of knowledge and practice relating to the body that were marginalised as 'pseudoscience'? Was knowledge and insight into the human condition lost in the process? Or is it immortalised within the literature of 'pseudoscience'?

This interdisciplinary conference considers how different discourses of the body were imagined and articulated across a range of visual and verbal texts (including journalism, fiction, popular science writing, illustration) in order to evaluate how 'pseudoscience' contributed both to understandings of the body and what it is to be human and to the formation of those disciplines now deemed orthodox.

Please visit the website for more details of how to register and to view the provisional programme.

Registration open: Science in Public 2016
University of Kent, Canterbury, 13-15 July 2016 ​

Registration for the Science in Public 2016 conference is now open via this link. The early bird rate is available until 20 May.

A draft timetable for the conference runs from lunchtime on Wednesday 13 July to about 3pm on Friday 15 July. There is a full range of packages with accommodation or day rates available. Thanks to support from the British Society for the History of Science we can offer reduced rates to students, unwaged and freelance attendees.

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