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.

The Wild Within - Harriet Ritvo Public Lecture. 17th May 2016 5.15pm, The Peel Lecture Theatre, Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, BS8 1SS.

Harriet Ritvo, Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, will be giving the opening Public Lecture to a series of events running from the 16th - 27th May for the Institute for Advanced Studies' theme of ANIMALS: Non-Human and Human Alike

A conference will take place at UEA next month, organised by Matthew MacKisack (Exeter Medical School), which will explore ideas about the role of imagination and imagery in science and culture:

An international conference at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

21 - 22 May 2016

The visual imagination is one of the most powerful human capacities.

It plays a vital role in art and literature, religion and science, and has been studied and celebrated by artists, writers, philosophers, psychologists, and, now, neuroscientists.

The event, which is the culmination of the AHRC-funded research project, ‘The Eye’s Mind’, will bring together leaders in all these fields to shape a new and more integrated understanding of this mysterious mental resource.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Paul Broks (psychology), John Onians (art history),
  • Joel Pearson (neuroscience), Michael Tye (philosophy)
  • and Adam Zeman (neurology)

For any enquiries please contact Kajsa Berg

Enter the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford for a unique evening of performance and drama. Drawing from a rich variety of medical plays and historical material, the event will illuminate, provoke, and dramatize developments which have shaped ideas of the body from the 18th century to the present day.

In the 18th century convicts’ bodies, commandeered by the state, were the raw material for anatomical dissections which were often open to the public. Over the next two centuries many other medical bodies were brought into the public sphere. Doctors and surgeons were placed on stages as the surgical theatre was joined by theatrical explorations of the role of medical professionals and the limits of their interventions, such as George Bernard Shaw’s A Doctor’s Dilemma (1906). By 1906 it was possible to look into a microscope and stare at the syphilis bacterium. An organism responsible for centuries of private shame and madness could be seen for the first time, photographed and displayed in public. At the same time that medicine was going public, so was health. The public health movement of the 19th century was another space were bodies were brought out into the open. The move to universal vaccination in particular saw fierce battles over the public treatment of private bodies. The broken bodies and minds of troops returning from the First World War also straddle a divide between private pain and the public psychiatric care that was, or was not, provided for trauma.

Join academics from across the University of Oxford, professional actors from Pegasus Theatre and staff of the Museum of the History of Science as they present a unique evening of performance and drama to illuminate how all of these developments have been mapped not just by medical writing but by theatre, which has a long history of engaging with science and medicine.

Scenes and readings to include:

  • Shelagh Stephenson, An Experiment with an Air-pump (1998)
  • George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma (1906)
  • Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts (1881)
  • A selection from the WWI poetry collection at Oxford by Sassoon and Owen
  • An historical anti-vaccination song
  • Joe Penhall, Blue/Orange (2000) 


Thursday, 5 May 2016 from 19:00 to 21:30


Museum of the History of Science - Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3AZ

To sign up go to:

For the summer term seminars in Oxford University's Diseases of Modern Life series, click here.

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