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.

University of Liverpool
October 31,2014
Deadline: September 1, 2014

Oliver Lodge was a defender of pure science, particularly in the modern university, yet he took a keen interest in how science might be applied throughout his career, taking out patents and setting up businesses. This workshop, which will take place in the University of Liverpool’s Victoria Building, the opening of which Lodge attended in 1892, examines the distinction between pure and applied science in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Speakers already confirmed include Di Drummond (Leeds Trinity), Bruce Hunt (University of Texas), Peter Rowlands (Liverpool), and Matthew Stanley (New York University).

The committee invites proposals for short papers (20 minutes) for a panel session at this one-day workshop. Please send proposals (no more than 300 words) to by September 1, 2014.

Topics for discussion might include:

Physics in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century
The distinction between pure and applied science in the period
Oliver Lodge as a scientist and / or engineer
Intellectual property and science
The place of science in the late nineteenth / early twentieth-century university
The contested state of the ether in the science of the period
The place of experiment / theory
Scientific equipment and the role of the laboratory
Lodge and Liverpool; Liverpool and science
Science teaching in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century
Science and spiritualism
This is the third in a series of workshops dedicated to Oliver Lodge organized by Making Waves: Oliver Lodge and the Cultures of Science, 1875-1940. This AHRC-funded research network, led by James Mussell and Graeme Gooday, seeks to consider the life and legacy of Oliver Lodge as a way of understanding the place of science in culture, both in his period and our own. See for further details.

We are delighted to announce that the BSLS will be awarding a grant of £500 to Will Tattersdill of the University of Birmingham to organise the first annual BSLS symposium, on Teaching Literature and Science, supported by Martin Willis (Westminster), Janine Rogers (Mount Allison), Allyson Purcell-Davis (St. Mary’s) and Cian Duffy (St. Mary’s). The Symposium will be held on Saturday 8th November at the University of Westminster on Regent Street in London. Further details, including a call for participants, will be posted on the BSLS website by the end of August at the latest.

Lancaster University is recruiting a research associate to work on the Davy Letters Project. Here are the details of the post:

Part-time Senior Research Associate

English & Creative Writing
Salary: £32,277 pro rata
Closing Date: Monday 11 August 2014
Interview Date: Friday 29 August 2014
Reference: A1039
Working on the MHRA funded Davy Letters Project, you will assist the Project’s PI, Professor Sharon Ruston to work on the Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy, a four-volume print edition to be published by the Oxford University Press in 2018.
You will have a PhD in history or literature (or award within 12 months) concentrating on the eighteenth and/or nineteenth centuries. Direct experience with eighteenth- and/or nineteenth-century manuscripts is desirable, as are publications upon or in a field related to eighteenth- and/or nineteenth-century literature and/or science. Previous editorial experience, particularly previous work on a scholarly edition of letters would be an advantage.
This is an excellent opportunity for an early career researcher to receive training in scholarly editing, experience of project management, research networking opportunities, and research mentoring which may lead to joint and sole-authored publication.
This is a 0.54fte position for 12 months from 1 October 2014 until 30 September 2015.
Informal enquiries may be made to Professor Sharon Ruston. For further details of the post, click here.
Further information on the Department of English and Creative Writing can be found at:
We welcome applications from people in all diversity groups.

Applications are invited for BSLS small grants of up to £400 to promote the study of literature and science. We are open to all sorts of proposals other than personal conference expenses. Examples of activities for which the awards might be used are expenses for a visiting speaker, a seminar series or a symposium. Applications for support to stage special BSLS panels at appropriate conferences (other than the BSLS 2014 conference) will be considered.

Recent and upcoming events supported by the scheme include the ‘Exhibiting Human Remains’ conference at the Hunterian Museum (June, 2013); a symposium, ‘Body and Mind: Mesmerism in Nineteenth-Century Culture and Literature,’ as part of the Damaging the Body seminar series (October 2013); a ‘Science as the Spark’ panel at the Cambridge Festival of Science (March 2014); and a talk on ‘What Scientists Read: How Does Literature Influence Scientific Thought and Practice?’ at Loncon 3, The 72nd World Science Fiction Convention (August 2014).

Applicants should be current members of BSLS and should apply by making a case, in up to 300 words, for how the award will contribute to the development of literature and science. A brief outline of the costs of the project should be appended. Where funding is sought for BSLS panels a clear indication of the scope of the panel, and of its contribution to the understanding of literature and science, should be included. Recipients of small grants are asked to acknowledge BSLS sponsorship appropriately in publicity for events and to provide a brief report on events for the BSLS newsletter.

The application should be e-mailed, as a Word attachment, to the BSLS Secretary, Peter Middleton, by September 5th, 2014. Please put ‘BSLS small grant’ in the subject heading of your email. Applications will be considered by the BSLS Executive Committee later in September. Applicants may apply for any amount up to £400; in some instances a proportion of the amount applied for may be awarded. Successful applicants will be informed by the end of September.

Queries about the scheme should be directed to Peter Middleton. International members of BSLS are welcome to apply for the awards, but should note that they will be distributed in the form of bank cheques made out in pounds sterling. Serving members of the BSLS Executive Committee are not eligible to apply for the awards. We cannot enter into correspondence about the decisions of the Committee.

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