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
- Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence
- Gillian Beer, Alice in Space: The Sideways Victorian World of Lewis Carroll
- Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim (eds.), Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power
- Andrew Sloane, Vulnerability and Care: Christian Reflections on the Philosophy of Medicine
- Graham Harrison, The African Presence: Representations of Africa in the Construction of Britishness
- Hubert Zapf, Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts
- Erik Parens, Shaping Our Selves: On Technology, Flourishing and a Habit of Thinking
- John Rieder, Science Fiction and the Mass Cultural Genre System
- Hillary Eklund, (ed), Ground-Work: English Renaissance Literature and Soil Science
- Allan Ingram and Leigh Wetherall Dickson (eds.), Disease and Death in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture: Fashioning the Unfashionable
- Joseph P. Huston, Marcos Nadal, Francisco Mora, Luigi F. Agnati and Camilo J. Cela-Conde (eds) Art, Aesthetics and the Brain
- Lucinda Cole, Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literature and the Sciences of Life, 1600-1740
- Dermot Coleman, George Eliot and Money: Economics, Ethics and Literature
- Angelique Richardson (ed), After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind
- Theresa M Kelley, Clandestine Marriage: Botany and Romantic Culture
- Mark S Morrisson, Modernism, Science, and Technology
- Emelyne Godfrey (ed), Utopias and Dystopias in the Fiction of H.G. Wells and William Morris: Landscape and Space
- Paul Crawford, Brian Brown, Charley Baker, Victoria Tischler and Brian Abrams, Health Humanities
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Martin Willis, Editor of the JLS (email@example.com), 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
Ordering knowledge, from Bacon to the Shelleys
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)
Anne Bandry-Scubbi (Université de Strasbourg)
Jean-Jacques Chardin (Université de Strasbourg)
Richard Somerset (Université de Lorraine)
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
- Graham Harman, Immaterialism: Objects and Social Theory
- Marc Flandreau, Anthropologists in the Stock Exchange: a Financial History of Victorian Britain
- Somogy Varga, Naturalism, Interpretation and Mental Disorder
- Suzanne Bailey, Cognitive Style and Perceptual Difference in Browning’s Poetry
- Mark Offord, Wordsworth and the Art of Philosophical Travel
- Scott Selisker, Human Programming: Brainwashing, Automatons and American Unfreedom
- Luke Morgan, The Monster in the Garden: The Grotesque and the Gigantic in Renaissance Landscape Design
- Samuel J Redman, Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums
- Ronald R Kline, The Cybernetics Moment: Or Why We Call Our Age the Information Age
- Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement. Climate Change and the Unthinkable
- Rick Rylance, Literature and the Public Good
- Marie-Laure Ryan, Narrative as Virtual Reality 2: Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media
- Nicholas Daly, The Demographic Imagination and the Nineteenth-Century City : Paris, London, New York
- Alex Murray, Landscapes of Decadence: Literature and Place at the Fin de Siècle
- Francesco Cassata, Building the New Man: Eugenics, Racial Science and Genetics in Twentieth-Century Italy
- Kelly Sultzbach, Ecocriticism in the Modernist Imagination: Forster, Woolf, and Auden
- Michael S. Pardo and Dennis Patterson, Minds, Brains, and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience
- Jane Ford, Kim Edwards Keates, and Patricia Pulham (eds), Economies of Desire at the Victorian Fin de Siècle: Libidinal Lives
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.
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.
Applications are now invited for the next round of both competitions, each with a deadline of 1st September 2017.
For more information on how to apply and on past awards, please visit our funding page.
Free tickets are still available for this special event at Brighton's Booth Museum of Natural History on Thursday evening, which marks the opening of a new exhibition on birds in literature.
'Flying off the Page: Birds in Literature, Victorian Era to the Present' will explore how birds have been depicted in literature and culture over time.
Please book your place for the event here:
4 - 6 July 2017
University of Leeds
Call for Registration: Mediating Climate Change is an international, multidisciplinary conference taking place at Leeds University, 4th-6th July 2017.
This major environmental humanities conference will cross disciplines and periods to analyse the ways in which human beings have tried to make sense of climate change. What difficulties are there in representing climate change? How has it been debated in the past? What new ways of exploring and mediating climate change are emerging as we face an uncertain future?
A full Programme of papers, panels, and public events, as well as the Call for Papers and further details, are available on the conference website: http://romanticcatastrophe.leeds.ac.uk/conference/
Registration is available via the Leeds University store: http://store.leeds.ac.uk/product-catalogue/faculty-of-arts/mediating-climate-change
The deadline for registration is 21 June, so register now to avoid disappointment.
For any enquiries, email Mediatingclimatechange@Leeds.ac.uk